Wind power can work for B.C.


Prime Minister Stephen Harper used the carbon tax as a cudgel to beat the political life out of Stéphane Dion in order to win reelection.

In your opinion, what role can wind power play in British Columbia?

Robert Hornung
President, Canadian Wind Energy Association

“I’d say wind is an emerging technology here in British Columbia. B.C. has got tremendous wind-energy potential, but at this point in time it does not have an operating wind farm. We’re pleased to see that there will be a couple operating next year.”¦B.C. is just at the cusp of taking some initial steps forward with respect to wind.”

Donna Passmore
Organizer, Gateway 40 Citizens Network

“I live in White Rock, and there have been proposals to put windmills here that are battled by the naturalists [because of bird mortality]. So this is one of the issues that divides the environmental community”¦the energy people from the wildlife conservationists.”¦But we should be pursuing this with heart and soul.”

Ian Campbell
Hereditary chief, Squamish Nation

“I think the role of wind power is important, in that we look for sustainability and little impact on the environment. We want to enjoy sustainability for our future generations. It’s a responsibility that we utilize the best technology available to achieve those initiatives that are respectful of the environment but meet our human consumption needs.”

Mark Jaccard
SFU professor, author, and energy expert

“You can mesh the wind power with the large storage capability of the hydropower reservoirs. Wind is not dispatchable and it’s not dependable.”¦So people who are doing wind elsewhere need to connect into some system where there’s dispatchable energy, and our hydropower system is great for that.”

Following the Liberal leader’s ignominious resignation on October 20, an industrial lobbyist for this country’s wind-power industry suggested Dion’s rejected tax-shift proposal was the right direction in which to be blowing.

“I think we will see federal and provincial governments that will put prices on carbon in the near future,” Joyce McLean, chair of the Canadian Wind Energy Association’s board of directors, told delegates the same day at CanWEA’s 24th annual conference and trade show at Canada Place. “That’s clearly a vote for wind and the resulting reduction in greenhouse gases that will help save our climate.”

In a speech delivered just after McLean’s, CanWEA president Robert Hornung discussed the association’s strategic-development vision, which projects that wind energy will supply 20 percent of the country’s demand by 2025, for a total wind-energy capacity of 55,000 megawatts.

“It’s ambitious, but it’s also clearly achievable,” Hornung told the Georgia Straight in an interview. “As I said in my presentation, when Canada had 100 megawatts of wind energy [in 2000], CanWEA talked about 10,000 and everybody said we were crazy. Now we’re talking about 12,000 [by 2015].”¦So it’s ambitious, and it is not guaranteed, but is it achievable? Absolutely.”

However, both Hornung and McLean claimed that by failing to enact effective policy, Canadian governments will miss out on a share of a global investment in wind energy worth $1 trillion and two million jobs worldwide. Hornung made the claim several times that wind energy will help “put the brakes on future cost increases” of electricity.

According to B.C. Hydro, the unit cost per kilowatt-hour of large hydroelectric projects ranges between $43 and $62; the unit cost of wind power is between $71 and $74 per kilowatt-hour.

“If you look going forward, everyone agrees that electricity prices are going up, no matter what source of electricity you use,” Hornung told the Straight. “In terms of the sources, the only one that’s actually going to be going down from the level it is today is wind. Everything else is going up.”¦We have experienced cost increases in the last couple of years because we have a global shortage of wind turbines, and that has driven up the cost as demand has exceeded supply. We have a lot of investment now going back into manufacturing to bring that back into balance. It is generally accepted that there is an evolution in terms of wind-turbine design that will continue to drive prices down. We are very optimistic about that.”

Speaking in an executive forum, Canadian Hydro Developers president John Keating noted Harper “could be” a political champion of wind energy.

“But the one place where he falls flat on his face is the environment,” Keating added of the prime minister.

Donna Passmore, a long-time card-carrying Conservative and keen environmentalist, told the Straight pristine areas should still be respected, but she added: “We have an exciting opportunity all over the province to be embracing this kind of technology.”

Passmore mentioned naturalists’ concern about possible bird mortality caused by the turbines, but she said that such clean-energy sources may prove to be birds’ salvation. “In his book The Weathermakers, Tim Flannery makes an excellent case that if we don’t come to terms with global warming and if we don’t wrestle our energy consumption and our greenhouse-gas emissions down, the birds are all going to die anyway.”

Premier Gordon Campbell cancelled his planned address to the conference to attend a meeting of the Canadian premiers that day related to the economy.

Pricing out B.C.'s power options

> Unit cost (per megawatt-hour) of large hydro: $43 to $62

> Unit cost (mWh) of run-of-river small hydro: $60 to $95

> Unit cost (mWh) of wind power: $71 to $74

> Unit cost (mWh) of tidal power: $100 to $360

> Unit cost (mWh) of solar: $700 to $1,700

> Total B.C. Hydro call for clean power in June 2008: 5,000 gigawatt-hours

Source: 2007 B.C. Energy Plan, B.C. Hydro

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