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Industrial-scale wind farms are coming to Ontario, but regulated electricity prices and a lack of siting policy are still holding things back

It is still expensive, for one. Liddle put generating costs alone at nine to 11 cents per kilowatt-hour. This in a province where residential users pay a regulated price of five and 5.8 cents per kilowatt-hour, depending on use-though in recent months industrial power users have been paying market prices of eight to ten cents per kilowatt-hour for their power. It is also unreliable. Power production depends on how the winds blow: turbines turn off when wind speeds fall below four metres per second, or when they exceed 25; they produce the most power at wind speeds of 18 metres per second.

KINCARDINE, Ontario - You can see them from many kilometres away, six tall steel pylons that tower above the surrounding trees and rotate lazily in the wind, 16 times every minute. It's Huron Wind, Ontario's first commercial wind farm, a stone's throw away from Lake Huron. Each of its turbines stands 117 metres tall from ground to blade tip.

Arguments for wind power abound. Promoters promise clean, emission-free energy, and that there are plenty of windy places in the world where it can be harnessed. Denmark, for instance, gets nearly 20 per cent of its energy from wind, through a combination of on- and off-shore turbines.

But arguments against wind are also aplenty. Cynics claim wind turbines are unreliable, expensive, noisy, that they generate power intermittently, that they kill birds, cause an annoyance to nearby residents through shadow flicker-imagine having the shadow of a wind turbine's rotor coursing across your living room-and that ice can form on rotor tips in winter, causing so-called "ice throw."

Like it or not, though, large wind farms are coming to Ontario. No fewer than five wind projects, with up... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  
KINCARDINE, Ontario - You can see them from many kilometres away, six tall steel pylons that tower above the surrounding trees and rotate lazily in the wind, 16 times every minute. It's Huron Wind, Ontario's first commercial wind farm, a stone's throw away from Lake Huron. Each of its turbines stands 117 metres tall from ground to blade tip.

Arguments for wind power abound. Promoters promise clean, emission-free energy, and that there are plenty of windy places in the world where it can be harnessed. Denmark, for instance, gets nearly 20 per cent of its energy from wind, through a combination of on- and off-shore turbines.

But arguments against wind are also aplenty. Cynics claim wind turbines are unreliable, expensive, noisy, that they generate power intermittently, that they kill birds, cause an annoyance to nearby residents through shadow flicker-imagine having the shadow of a wind turbine's rotor coursing across your living room-and that ice can form on rotor tips in winter, causing so-called "ice throw."

Like it or not, though, large wind farms are coming to Ontario. No fewer than five wind projects, with up to 66 wind turbines each, are in different stages of development. The McGuinty government aims to add 2,700 megawatts of energy from renewable sources by 2010-roughly one-tenth the province's peak power use-and wind farms are a proven way to add a hundred or so megawatts of power in one swoop.

The Huron Winds generating facility opened in December 2001. It's a guinea pig, explained spokesperson Robert Liddle. And from what they have learned so far, he said, only two of the charges against wind power stick.

It is still expensive, for one. Liddle put generating costs alone at nine to 11 cents per kilowatt-hour. This in a province where residential users pay a regulated price of five and 5.8 cents per kilowatt-hour, depending on use-though in recent months industrial power users have been paying market prices of eight to ten cents per kilowatt-hour for their power.

It is also unreliable. Power production depends on how the winds blow: turbines turn off when wind speeds fall below four metres per second, or when they exceed 25; they produce the most power at wind speeds of 18 metres per second.

So, on average, each wind turbine produces much less power than its advertised capacity. Last year, for instance, Huron Wind's capacity factor was only 30 per cent-this means you can only count on getting 540 kilowatts of power from each windmill, of its 1.8 megawatt capacity. Around five thousand turbines would be needed to replace one atomic generating station, Liddle estimated.

But while there are upper limits to their efficiency, wind turbines are bound to get bigger with time, said Hugh Campbell, general manager of Vestas Canada. Vestas, its parent company based in Denmark, is the global leader in wind energy, having installed one-third of the world's wind power capacity.

"Megawatt-class machines are the general trend in the industry," he commented. Currently, in the North American market, Vestas sells turbines with rotors 80 metres in diameter and 1.8-megawatt capacity. In 2007, it will have a 2.75-megawatt model available, with a 100-metre rotor diameter. And in Denmark, the company is working on a 4.5-megawatt model, with a mammoth rotor 120 metres in diameter.

But this is earmarked for off-shore use.

How big can they get? "There are certainly some different schools of thought out there," Campbell said. "I'm hearing numbers of, maybe larger, maybe up to ten megawatts."

Campbell also challenged the common notion that wind turbines kill a lot of birds. Earlier models, such as those installed in California in the early 80s, he said, had quickly-rotating rotors. They were also built as lattice-like structures similar to communications antennas.

"Typically, you'd get birds of prey that would perch in the lattice towers," Campbell explained. Nowadays, the rotors are placed atop steel towers that taper toward the tip; rotors also turn at a quarter of the velocity of older models.

But that has not stopped critics from attacking wind farm developments. Toronto-based Brascan Power, for instance, is building a wind farm near Collingwood. The project has come under fire from the Blue Highlands Citizens Coalition, which worries about damage the project might cause to the sensitive Niagara Escarpment.

That project is still in the development phase, said Brascan spokesperson Shelley Moorhead, and is slated to open 2007.

Environmentalists, such as the Sierra Club of Canada, are mostly keen on this form of renewable power-though they are keener on conservation.

"We need to be prepared, on occasion, to sacrifice something in the way of a panoramic vista for wind siting," said Dan McDermott, director of the Sierra Club's Ontario chapter. The big bugbear for would-be wind projects in Ontario, he said, is the province's circuitous environmental approval process.

"What we really need, in terms of dealing with this issue, is a class environmental assessment process on wind siting in Ontario," said McDermott. "Then we can come up with a prescription of where it is appropriate to site turbines in Ontario and where it is not."

Class EAs specify standard procedures for reviewing the environmental impact of a whole class of projects. This would make for unified policy on wind farm siting across Ontario, "rather than deal with this as a constant series of one-offs," as McDermott put it.

"We simply can't go through that kind of long, drawn-out, energy-draining process for every last wind project that's proposed," he said.

Source: http://www.thevarsity.ca/me...

NOV 24 2005
https://www.windaction.org/posts/815-industrial-scale-wind-farms-are-coming-to-ontario-but-regulated-electricity-prices-and-a-lack-of-siting-policy-are-still-holding-things-back
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