Is B.C.'s energy answer blowin' in the wind?

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      Take the elevator to the 57-metre-high viewing pod on Grouse Mountain’s new wind turbine, and the first thing you’ll be struck by is the panoramic view. To the south, the sparkling city appears tiny compared to the expanse of land and water lying beyond it. To the north, snow-kissed mountain peaks stretch for hundreds of kilometres.

      Just as you’re pondering your own insignificance, whoosh! Your breath is taken away by an equally stunning sight. Only 50 centimetres from the protective glass, a 37-metre-long turbine blade rushes past at over 200 kilometres per hour.

      Dubbed the Eye of the Wind, the turbine is intended not only to reduce the ski resort’s dependence on the electric grid, but also to serve as a symbol of the future of renewable energy in the Lower Mainland.

      “It is supposed to be iconic and have a message to Vancouver and to the world,” project manager Julia Kossowski told the Georgia Straight by phone from her office on Grouse.

      But is the Eye of the Wind a sign of things to come in Vancouver? Will other white towers soon dot the North Shore mountains? Could a wind farm be built in the shallow waters off Richmond? Inconsistent wind conditions in the Lower Mainland make these scenarios unlikely.

      However, Grouse Mountain’s project is a harbinger of wind-energy projects in other parts of British Columbia, which will soon help power the lights of Vancouver.

      Last month, as part of its Clean Power Call program, B.C. Hydro awarded contracts to six new wind-farm projects in Tumbler Ridge, Chetwynd, and Port Hardy. Yet many renewable-energy supporters want to see the province move faster to increase its wind-farm capacity.

      “I would love to see a huge expansion of wind power,” Guy Dauncey, president of the B.C. Sustainable Energy Association, told the Straight by phone from Victoria. “Right now there’s wind rushing past, and it’s not being captured.”

      Dauncey’s concern over all this untapped energy is justified. Before November 2009, when Alta-Gas Income Trust’s Bear Mountain Wind Park near Dawson Creek began generating electricity for the grid, B.C. was the only province in Canada without a single operating wind turbine.

      So, why the molasses-slow adoption of wind power? According to Dauncey, the availability of cheap hydropower has limited the demand for renewable-energy sources such as wind turbines, which are more expensive. But, in its 2007 B.C. Energy Plan, the Liberal government pledged the province would become energy self-sufficient by 2016, with 90 percent of power coming from clean or renewable sources. With B.C. Hydro paying higher rates to private companies for sustainable energy, there has been an economic incentive to develop new projects. However, even with Premier Gordon Campbell pushing for more green energy, companies must take a leap of faith.

      “It’s very high-risk for the developers because they have to put due-diligence work in ahead of time and they might not get a contract,” Dauncey said.

      Case in point: NaiKun Wind Energy Group’s proposal to build a massive wind farm off Haida Gwaii was shelved in March after over five years of planning.

      Simon Fraser University political scientist John Calvert, who wrote the book Liquid Gold: Energy Privatization in British Columbia (Fernwood Publishing, 2007), argues that the government’s policy of encouraging private companies to develop sustainable energy has contributed to the lack of progress on wind power in B.C.

      “B.C. Hydro was working on the wind file,” Calvert told the Straight by phone from his office at SFU. But in 2002, Campbell’s newly elected government barred the Crown corporation from getting into wind, he noted. “They essentially handed over all that work to private interests.”

      Calvert asserted that the recent awarding of wind-power contracts is akin to handing valuable public assets to the private sector. “We’re allowing private companies to make use of public land and losing all the most promising locations on Crown land for wind,” he said. “Twenty or 30 years from now the public is going to be scratching their heads, wondering why B.C. gave away the future of sustainable energy.”

      But according to Dauncey, private companies are better suited to developing wind energy. “They have the skills. There’s no guarantee that public ownership will lead to sustainable solutions,” he said, pointing to B.C. Hydro’s controversial proposal of a gas-fired power plant in Nanaimo that didn’t go forward in the early 2000s after public opposition.

      Dauncey sees wind power as playing a central role in addressing global warming. If B.C. can generate a significant surplus of green energy to export to the U.S., there will be less of a need for coal-fired plants there, he said.

      Calvert, on the other hand, worries that the potential for energy exports to the States will lead to further energy privatization. Because wind energy can be unreliable, private companies won’t be able to sell it without being backed up by flexible hydropower, which could lead to more control over B.C. Hydro being handed over to private interests, according to Calvert. “The owners of intermittent wind energy are going to want access to storage in order to firm up their energy for sale, which further subsidizes them,” he said.

      In Dauncey’s view, concerns about privatization pale in comparison to the potential impacts of global warming. “People who are opposed to exporting green energy don’t understand the severity of global warming,” he said. “Every time we do nothing, we have to answer to our grandchildren. Doing nothing is immoral.”

      While Grouse Mountain’s Eye of the Wind may symbolize the future of wind power in B.C., it also illustrates the province’s snail-like pace in harnessing this energy source—a dispute with B.C. Hydro over safety regulations has prevented the turbine from producing any power.

      Until the stalemate between Grouse and B.C. Hydro is broken, the Eye of the Wind will continue to fulfill only half of its mandate: to remind Vancouverites of the need for sustainable energy.

      “We want people to look at it and think, ”˜If Grouse could put this together, what can I do?’ ” Kossowski said.

      Comments

      5 Comments

      seth

      Apr 22, 2010 at 11:42am

      The cost of transporting and load balancing wind power is so incredibly high that it is really a worthless form of power except in niche markets.

      The cost is $12B/Gw average excluding transmission and load balancing costs.

      Typical capacity factors of 25% require transmission lines 4 times the size of hydro. Wind is heavily dependant on hydro or natural gas backup.

      It destroys incredibly large tracts of land - 8 times as much as site C per average Gw.

      Nuclear power on the other hand is $2B/Gw today and is expected to drop to $1B/Gw when we get into the ten to twenty plants a year factory production area.

      Nuke plants can be built close to population centres, require minimal transmission builds, use almost no land, and produce extremely valuable dependable power for export.

      Instead of spending $65 billion contracting for a little over a Gw of IPP power and another inflation adjusted $23B for .5 Gw of Site C power, Gordo could have copied the latest Candu build at Qinshan China. purchasing the same 1.5Gw avg for $2.9B.

      That plant even burns remixed American PWR reactor waste for fuel.

      Gordo's wacky renewable schemes are costing us thirty times the nuclear power tariff,

      Now thats Gordonomics
      seth

      0 0Rating: 0

      Gabriel Morosan

      Apr 23, 2010 at 12:12pm

      whauu.... interesting info. Thank you for sharing. For more photos of our own Wind Turbine go to Http://www.finestreetphotography.com
      Thank you.
      Gabriel

      0 0Rating: 0

      RodSmelser

      Apr 28, 2010 at 10:15am

      But according to Dauncey, private companies are better suited to developing wind energy. “They have the skills. There’s no guarantee that public ownership will lead to sustainable solutions,” he said, pointing to B.C. Hydro’s controversial proposal of a gas-fired power plant in Nanaimo that didn’t go forward in the early 2000s after public opposition.

      ...

      In Dauncey’s view, concerns about privatization pale in comparison to the potential impacts of global warming. “People who are opposed to exporting green energy don’t understand the severity of global warming,” he said. “Every time we do nothing, we have to answer to our grandchildren. Doing nothing is immoral.”

      ====================================

      I think these passages make it crystal clear that Guy Dauncey, like Tzeporah Berman, is a business lobbyist for the IPP sector.

      Rod Smelser

      0 0Rating: 0

      MichaelT

      Apr 28, 2010 at 11:08am

      yes yes yes I LOVE THE TURBINE as seen from my environs around Main and Broadway.

      WE NEED two on Queen E top and build an observation deck between them while educating the public about them AND AS A SYMBOL of what Vancouver is - intelligent, conservationist and willing to do our part.

      It's a win win scenario . I should run as Mayor - vote for me!

      0 0Rating: 0

      Neurotic ape

      Dec 23, 2012 at 6:43pm

      Seth , you can't be serious. Nuclear power? Go read about Chernobyl or Fukushima. Now add a percentage of those costs to your figures. Then divide the number of nuclear accidents by the number of years that we have had nuclear and forecast those numbers into the future. Add that cost. Oh yeah, don't forget that the actual number of deaths and nuclear disease has been highly skewed in both cases. Also factor in the economies of scale for future accidents. You may now have something close to the true cost of nuclear power. By the way, what dollar figure did you us per death caused? Chernobyls figures range from the thousands to the tens of thousands depending upon your source. Since Japan has NEVER released information regarding the deaths and diseases from Hiroshima and Nagasaki I think that it would be reasonable to assume that they will not be very forthcoming about Fukushima.
      While we are on the subject what figures are there for oil and gas related death and disease? Cars with catalytic converters are still releasing benzene into the air. Benzene causes cancer. I don't have space to list all of the health problems associated with oil and gas. These costs are not included when calculating the cost of energy. The costs are borne by the increased taxes for health care and the individuals suffering from the diseases. This does not take into account the grief and anguish that goes along with these fatalities. It will be a long time before we ever find out the true costs of these insane sources of power.

      0 0Rating: 0