PEI and Wind Energy – A Perfect Fit?

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PEI and wind energy certainly are a hand in glove fit as anyone who lives here will attest. Although put on hold due to the downturn in the economy, production of power on PEI, to be marketed on the northeastern US seaboard, will undoubtedly be “a go” in the future.

PEI has a definite plan in place to increase its own reliance on wind energy as well. Currently approximately 18% of electrical energy used in PEI is wind generated, however there are calls to increase this to 30% by 2013. That means that PEI will need to generate 500 megawatts of wind energy by that time. It is estimated that this represents a $1 billion capital expenditure with an economic spin-off worth $40 million per year.

The western tip of the island around Tignish/North Cape was the first area on PEI to see wind farm development. In 2001 an eight wind turbine farm was started and in 2003 it was doubled to include 16 wind turbines. This installation produced a little better than 60 Megawatts of energy, enough to power over 25,000 homes. The PEI Energy Corp, a provincially owned company, then added a second wind farm on the eastern end of the island to produce a further 30 megawatts of wind power.

In addition to these public installations, private companies from Europe, where wind energy is well developed have expressed interest in PEI real estate as a site for further wind energy sites. As well, private individuals on the island are beginning to think in terms of erecting turbines on their properties to produce power for their own homes as well as supplying Maritime Electric, the island’s power company, with surplus power during peak periods. Cities have shown an interest as well. Stratford has indicated an interest in adding a wind generator to supply power to public buildings.

With all this interest PEI can expect economic spinoffs in terms of both increased taxes and increased jobs during construction. PEI is a rural province, the smallest of Canada’s 13 provinces and territories, with a full-time population of around 140,000. There is both a public and political desire to protect the environment.

However there will be challenges to face. Wind farms have been proposed in areas where residents have protested strongly against “having wind turbines in their back yards”. Even if wind farms are relegated to the tips of the island, PEI real estate is populated such that most land is private and the population is spread out evenly over the island; there are few areas that aren’t populated. Even if wind farms are constructed away from denser population areas there is then the problem of high energy transmissions lines. These are of course not problems unique to PEI. Wind energy critics point to problems with energy storage and on-demand need versus wind production issues. It has been suggested that surplus wind energy be converted to hydrogen. However in the foreseeable future it would appear that US markets would be able to use any surplus power PEI would produce.

In a world where the demand for power is ever increasing, PEI is blessed with the potential as a power producer thanks to the island being subject to considerable winds. Hopefully that which is a problem in winter, with storms, created by snowfall blown around by wind, can be turned to our advantage.

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