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Wind and solar power catch a stiff breeze

"There are two kinds of electricity supply. One is a firm supply where if you demand 100 megawatts, you get it at any time. Coal, gas-fired and nuclear plants can deliver that energy," Mr. Livet explains. "Then you have interrupted supply, because if the wind doesn't blow, you don't have any energy. So you need backup." The ideal clean energy mix of wind and water would work best in British Columbia, Manitoba and Quebec, which have developed hydro dam infrastructures and a large storage of water, Mr. Livet says. "It makes quite good sense for those provinces to actually build more wind energy, since if the wind blows, they can save water until it's needed."

Their fortunes rise along with renewed consumer interest and the price of fossil fuels

Here's another stereotype about oil-rich Alberta you can toss out. Renowned for its governmental resistance to the Kyoto Protocol, Wild Rose Country actually leads the nation in wind-power generation. And next spring, the community of Okotoks, south of Calgary, will be home to North America's first solar neighbourhood.

The Canadian solar- and wind-power industries have grown remarkably in the past few years, thanks to increased energy demands from a growing population and booming economy, as well as rising fossil-fuel costs and fears about climate change. Even slow-acting provincial and municipal governments are seeking out these green technologies.

In fact, wind-generated energy is the fastest growing renewable power source, according to Industry Canada. In 2005, the wind-energy industry added 240 megawatts of capacity. By the end of this year, it expects to add an additional 700, and the national total will be 1,218 megawatts, primarily in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, PEI and Nova Scotia.

While wind serves only 370,000 Canadian homes now, energy... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Their fortunes rise along with renewed consumer interest and the price of fossil fuels

Here's another stereotype about oil-rich Alberta you can toss out. Renowned for its governmental resistance to the Kyoto Protocol, Wild Rose Country actually leads the nation in wind-power generation. And next spring, the community of Okotoks, south of Calgary, will be home to North America's first solar neighbourhood.

The Canadian solar- and wind-power industries have grown remarkably in the past few years, thanks to increased energy demands from a growing population and booming economy, as well as rising fossil-fuel costs and fears about climate change. Even slow-acting provincial and municipal governments are seeking out these green technologies.

In fact, wind-generated energy is the fastest growing renewable power source, according to Industry Canada. In 2005, the wind-energy industry added 240 megawatts of capacity. By the end of this year, it expects to add an additional 700, and the national total will be 1,218 megawatts, primarily in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, PEI and Nova Scotia.

While wind serves only 370,000 Canadian homes now, energy consumers can expect more to come. The previous Liberal federal government provided incentives to the industry that caused rapid growth in the past four years but, since last April, the Conservatives have made no funds available for additional wind energy projects.

However, many provincial governments have established targets for wind energy, says Robert Hornung, president of the Canadian Wind Energy Association, which represents more than 250 wind-energy companies.

"If you add those targets up, they represent about 10,000 megawatts by 2015. One megawatt represents about 300 homes, so this would meet the energy needs of three million homes," Mr. Hornung says.

Since 1997, Alberta has set up more than a dozen wind farms in its windy southwest. Calgary-based Vision Quest Windelectric Inc., an industry pioneer that operates three wind farms near Pincher Creek, is the largest such company in Canada.

"Why in Alberta, the redneck oil patch?" says Jason Edworthy, one of three company founders. "Albertans are environmentally aware because they work in industries that have environmental sensitivities. That, combined with the entrepreneurial bent of the people here, is why we got involved."

Owned by TransAlta Corp. since 2002, Vision Quest has proposed another wind farm in Alberta and three in southern Ontario.

Meanwhile, solar power, once seen as the purview of tree-huggers, is coming on strong among mainstream adapters.

This is most apparent in Ontario, where a government program announced last March offers 42 cents a kilowatt hour to electricity users who sell their excess photovoltaic-generated power back to Ontario Hydro.

Canadian sales of solar products grew by 400 per cent in the first half of 2006 because of the Ontario buyback program, says Rob McMonagle, executive director of the Canadian Solar Industries Association. In a typical year, only about 25 kwh are installed on grid-connected homes in Ontario, the association says, and in 2004 only 110 kwh were installed on-grid in all of Canada.

The country's photovoltaic industry includes about 50 companies, most of which are designers or installers of residential systems. Average annual market growth for photovoltaic technologies has been 24 per cent over the past 11 years.

In contrast to photovoltaic systems, which provide electricity, solar thermal technology can heat homes and provide hot showers and warm water on laundry day.

"The energy needs of your house are broken down into 50 per cent for heating, 25 per cent for heating your hot water and 25 per cent for electricity," Mr. McMonagle says. The challenge here is that general home heating is needed only during winter, while solar water heaters are needed year-round.

The consumer pay-back period for a solar water-heating system is eight to 12 years, Mr. McMonagle says.

"When we look at life-cycle costing, solar is actually the cheapest form of energy for the homeowner," he says.

A solar water-heating appliance for home use costs $3,500 to $6,000, and most of the units produced by two Canadian manufacturers are exported. Only about 2,000 homes and commercial buildings in Canada use the technology.

EnerWorks Inc. wants these numbers to grow. The London, Ont., company makes solar thermal-heating systems for commercial and residential developments such as the new Drake Landing Solar Community in Okotoks. Mike Noble, company president and founder, says his system can be installed in less than a day.

In October, the company secured $3.65-million in expansion financing from Vancouver's Chrysalix Energy Management Inc., which invests in early-stage, technology-based clean energy companies. "Our plan is to support our existing dealer networks and to launch into the U.S. market," Mr. Noble says.

But will renewable energies replace coal, natural gas and nuclear power any time soon?

Not likely, says Bob Livet, vice-president of energy operations at AMEC Inc., an international engineering company. Since the 1990s, AMEC has participated in more than 30 completed wind farms around Canada, both on land and offshore. When AMEC's current projects are completed in early 2007, Ontario will surpass Alberta as the new wind-energy leader.

"There are two kinds of electricity supply. One is a firm supply where if you demand 100 megawatts, you get it at any time. Coal, gas-fired and nuclear plants can deliver that energy," Mr. Livet explains. "Then you have interrupted supply, because if the wind doesn't blow, you don't have any energy. So you need backup."

The ideal clean energy mix of wind and water would work best in British Columbia, Manitoba and Quebec, which have developed hydro dam infrastructures and a large storage of water, Mr. Livet says.

"It makes quite good sense for those provinces to actually build more wind energy, since if the wind blows, they can save water until it's needed."


Source: http://www.theglobeandmail....

NOV 13 2006
https://www.windaction.org/posts/5769-wind-and-solar-power-catch-a-stiff-breeze
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