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B.C. Plagued By Uncertainty, Or Ripe With Opportunity?

With a strong wind resource and long history of domestic renewable energy, British Columbia has a lot of potential, according to Nicholas Heap, the Canadian Wind Energy Association’s (CanWEA) B.C. regional director. However, the future of wind development in the province may depend on a long list of what-ifs in the coming years.

The latest statistics from CanWEA show B.C. has four grid-connected wind projects, including the 144 MW Dokie, 102 MW Bear Mountain, 142 MW Quality and 99 MW Cape Scott wind farms. The latter project most recently came online in late 2013. In addition, there is a single 1.5 MW turbine located at a local ski resort.

Overall, Canada is home to over 180 wind farms totaling almost 7.8 GW of installed capacity. Ontario and Quebec lead the country with close to 2.5 GW online each, followed by Alberta (1.12 GW) and British Columbia (488.7 MW). Here’s an interesting fact, though: B.C. may hold the No. 4 spot, but it also gets less of its domestic electricity supply from wind energy – 2% – than any other Canadian province.

“In large part, that’s because we are blessed with a whole bunch of renewable energy resources,” explains Heap. “We have lots of large hydro, which has provided cost-effective power for many decades now. We have small run-of-river hydro, biomass, the potential for geothermal – we have a large number of options.

“Up until the last five or six years, those options have been more cost-effective than wind,” he admits. Now, Heap says, wind is cheaper than ever because of lower turbine prices and recent technology advances.

“At this point in time, with the cost of wind energy becoming more competitive, wind energy really is in the full position in British Columbia.”

Heap says there is potential for B.C. to add about 200 MW of wind power by 2016, as there are power purchase agreements outstanding from a past call for tenders from Crown-owned utility BC Hydro. Nonetheless, wind development in the province could eventually halt altogether unless changes are made to the utility’s new 20-year Integrated Resource Plan (IRP).

The IRP, passed in November 2013, has a strong focus on energy efficiency and is based on what Heap calls an “extraordinarily conservative” load growth forecast. Most importantly, the plan currently features no new wind power goals. “That’s obviously disappointing,” he says.

The good news is that the IRP is up for review in fall 2015, by which time Heap believes B.C.’s energy demand could rise dramatically, opening the door for more wind procurement. For example, he says B.C. is one of the fastest-growing parts of Canada whose population is slated to grow by 1 million within the next 20 to 30 years. Simply put, more persons mean more electricity demand.

However, the biggest opportunity for new wind procurement in British Columbia may be natural gas. Re-elected in May 2013, the B.C. Liberal Party has prioritized establishing a major liquefied natural gas (LNG) export industry, which, if realized, would require a significant amount of new electricity to power.

Heap estimates there are about 11 large LNG projects, if not more, currently in the works. He also says the government has many times emphasized that the LNG should be the “cleanest LNG in the world,” with plants powered by clean or renewable resources.

“Obviously, the size of the energy demand coming to the province is very dependent on the number of industrial projects that go forward,” Heap notes. “That is a huge variable.” Furthermore, it remains uncertain how large of a role, if any, wind power would have in meeting the new electricity needs.

Over the next two years, Heap says CanWEA is dedicated to trying to ensure wind power has a bright future in British Columbia, but he admits that a positive outcome relies heavily on whether BC Hydro sees a need for new energy.

“A lot is riding on that [IRP] review,” he explains. “We have two years to put a good case forward, and I think we have an excellent case to make. But, at the end of the day, [wind developers] need a customer for their electricity. If the utility in 2015 still decides there is no need to buy electricity, then that’s going to have a big impact on the wind energy industry.”

There is much work to do, Heap adds. Nevertheless, he says the outlook for B.C. wind is “very promising.”


Turbine Crashes
At Pa. Wind Farm

On the evening of Jan. 15, a GE 1.5 MW wind turbine collapsed at NextEra Energy Resources’ Mill Run wind farm. The 15 MW project, which came online in 2001, is located at a remote mountainside on private property in Pennsylvania. No one was injured.

Steven Stengel, a NextEra spokesperson, tells NAW that a technician discovered the entire wind turbine had fallen over after the company received a “fault” indication. The cause of the incident is still under investigation.

“Turbine failure is extremely rare but something we obviously take very seriously,” says Stengel. “We’ve engaged our experts that are currently at the site investigating the cause. The other nine turbines are currently not operating.”

GE spokesperson Lindsay Theile says the company’s team is available to support NextEra in identifying the cause.


Maine Aqua Ventus
Clears Key Hurdle

In a 2-1 vote on Jan. 14, the Maine Public Utilities Commission (PUC) approved a term sheet for the 12 MW Maine Aqua Ventus offshore wind pilot project. The UMaine-led consortium, also including construction services provider Cianbro and Nova Scotia utility Emera, proposes to develop two floating wind turbines in the Gulf of Maine.

The term sheet lays out the provisions of a potential long-term power purchase agreement between Maine Aqua Ventus and Central Maine Power. The Maine regulators signed off on a $0.23/kWh price tag and will need to review and approve any final contract.

The term sheet signals a big step forward for Maine Aqua Ventus, one of seven U.S. offshore wind projects that won Department of Energy funding in December 2012. The projects are now competing for three follow-up grants.

This is not the first time the Maine PUC approved a term sheet for an offshore wind project. Early last year, the regulators approved one for Statoil, which had won a request for proposals (RFP) and planned to build its own 12 MW offshore wind pilot project in the state. However, Gov. Paul R. LePage, R-Maine, and other critics spoke out against the deal’s rates. The state legislature later ordered the PUC to halt contract negotiations and reissue an RFP, which Maine Aqua Ventus answered and won.

Citing uncertainty and regulatory issues, Statoil announced in October 2013 that it was abandoning its Hywind project.


Second Texas Wind
Deal For Google

Internet giant Google has announced its second wind energy investment in Texas. In an official blog post, the company reveals it is investing $75 million in Pattern Energy Group’s 182 MW Panhandle 2 project. This announcement follows Google’s previous $200 million investment in EDF Renewable Energy’s Spinning Spur wind farm, located in Oldham County, Texas.

Currently under construction in Carson County, Panhandle 2 will comprise Siemens wind turbines and is slated to be online by year-end. Google says the project represents the company’s 15th investment in renewable energy. Furthermore, the Panhandle 2 and Spinning Spur projects are not the only wind power efforts Google has made in Texas: The company is also buying all of the output from the 240 MW Happy Hereford wind farm, which is being developed by Chermac Energy. Located outside Amarillo, that project is slated to be operational later this year.


NREL: Turbines Boost
Grid Reliability

Wind energy technology can support and enhance reliability of the U.S. power grid by controlling the active power output being placed onto the system, finds a new study from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). The rest of the power system’s resources have traditionally been adjusted around wind to support a reliable and efficient system; however, NREL says the research that led to its report challenges that concept.

The national lab conducted the study, “Active Power Controls from Wind Power: Bridging the Gaps,” with partners from the Electric Power Research Institute and the University of Colorado.

The report also finds that it often could be economically beneficial to provide active power control, and potentially damaging loads on turbines from providing this control is negligible. NREL says active power control helps balance load with generation at various times, avoiding erroneous power flows, involuntary load shedding, machine damage and the risk of potential blackouts.

“Utilities and independent system operators are all seeking strategies to better integrate wind and other variable generation into their electric systems,” says NREL Analyst Erik Ela. “Few have considered using wind power to support power system reliability.”

The study included a number of different power system simulations, control simulations and field tests using turbines at NREL’s National Wind Technology Center (NWTC). The lab says the study developed proposals for new ancillary services designs in U.S. wholesale electricity markets, studied how wind power affects system frequency in the western U.S. with and without active power control, and tested the use of active power control at the NWTC to better understand the performance and structural impacts on wind turbines when providing active power control to the electric system.

“Although many of the control strategies have been proven technically feasible and are used in many regions of the world, only a limited number of wind turbines in the United States are currently providing active power control,” Ela explains. “The reason is that the stakeholders – system operators, manufacturers, regulators and the plant owners – all have different goals and perspectives.”

According to NREL, wind is one of the fastest-growing sources of power generation – supplying up to 20% of electricity in many areas of the world. In some regions of the U.S., wind sometimes provides more than 50% of the electric power. However, NREL says the challenge with integrating high concentrations of wind power into electric systems is that it is a variable, uncertain resource, commonly considered “non-dispatchable.”

The forms of active power control considered in this study are synthetic inertial control, primary frequency control and automatic generation control regulation. For wind power to provide active power control services, NREL says three things must happen:

NREL says the comprehensive study analyzed time frames ranging from milliseconds to the lifetime of wind turbines, spatial scopes ranging from turbine components to entire regions, and study types ranging from economics to power systems engineering, to control design.

“The study’s key takeaway is that wind power can act in an equal or superior manner to conventional generation when providing active power control, supporting the system frequency response and improving reliability,” Ela concludes.


Wind Helps NYISO
Beat The Cold

During last month’s arctic blast, wind power helped utilities, such as the Nebraska Public Power District, and grid operators, such as the New York Independent System Operator (NYISO), across the U.S. fight extremely cold weather and meet related boosts in energy demand.

Specifically, the NYISO says it successfully met a new winter record peak demand for electricity of 25,738 MW on Jan. 7. The previous record of 25,541 MW was set on Dec. 20, 2004.

On Jan. 7, the operator says it had the benefit of more than 1 GW of wind power throughout much of the day. The NYISO notes it also relied on initiatives such as demand response programs and interregional cooperation.

“Record-low temperatures in many portions of the nation resulted in a challenging day for electric system operators in New York, New England, the Mid-Atlantic and the Midwest,” says NYISO President and CEO Stephen G. Whitley. “However, thanks to excellent regional cooperation and coordination, the expertise of our operators and the performance of New York’s generation owners, utilities and demand response partners, we successfully managed those challenges and maintained system reliability.”


Ontario Wind
Production Doubles

A new report from Ontario’s Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) shows that the production of wind energy in the province has doubled over the past four years.

In the Electricity Data report released on Jan. 8, the IESO confirms the annual production of wind energy in Ontario has risen from 2.3 TWh to 5.2 TWh between 2009 and 2013. Citing data from the IESO and the Ontario Ministry of Energy, the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) says this means that in 2013, Ontario wind farms produced electricity equivalent to the power needs of close to 550,000 average Ontario homes.

Robert Hornung, CanWEA president, says the IESO believes the contribution of wind energy to Ontario’s electricity supply will increase even more significantly in the next couple of years as new wind projects come online.

He adds that governments across Canada and in advanced economies around the world appreciate the importance of blending increasing amounts of wind energy in the electricity supply because of its economic and environmental benefits.

“The 100 communities across Canada that host wind energy operations, developments and businesses, as well as Ontario’s Long Term Energy Plan, recognize that wind energy is a proven, reliable and cost-competitive energy solution that drives economic diversification, environmental sustainability and rate-base value,” Hornung says.


REpower Systems
Is Now Senvion

REpower Systems SE, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Suzlon Group, has officially become Senvion SE. The German wind turbine maker announced plans for the name change in October 2013.

The company explains that it has been using the name REpower under license since 2001; however, the rights belong to a Swiss company that is now using the name itself. Senvion says the new name refers to the company’s renewable energy operations, with the “S” standing for the sustainability of its products, “EN” for energy, “VI” for vision and “ON” for being switched on.

“In addition to having unique products and services, we are now also the only company with this name,” says Andreas Nauen, CEO of Senvion SE, later adding, “As Senvion, we will continue along our path as a strong and innovative brand in the wind energy industry.”


Mass. Home Values
Unharmed By Wind

An independent analysis has found no statistically significant evidence that proximity to a wind turbine affects home values in Massachusetts.

The report – commissioned by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) and written by researchers from the University of Connecticut and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory – examined 122,000 Massachusetts real estate transactions between 1998 and 2012. It compared transactions within a half-mile of constructed wind turbines to similar transactions between one half-mile and five miles away.

As the MassCEC explains, Massachusetts has expanded the number of wind energy projects in the state from just 3 MW and three turbines installed in 2007 to more than 100 MW and dozens of turbines installed now throughout the commonwealth.

The center says the study compares the relationship between wind turbines and residential home values to those of factors previously shown to affect home prices, such as high-voltage transmission lines, landfills, highways, protected open space and proximity to beaches.

Of the impacts studied, landfills and transmission lines have the greatest negative impact (or disamenity) on home prices, while beachfront and proximity to beaches were found to have the greatest positive impact (or amenity) on home prices. The MassCEC says the study found that operating turbines have a +0.5% amenity, which falls within the study’s margin of error.

“Properly sited renewable energy projects like wind turbines can deliver clean energy for our citizens and boost our local economy,” says MassCEC CEO Alicia Barton. “This report is designed to provide fact-based research to inform decision-makers on potential impacts wind turbines could have on nearby property.” w

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B.C. Plagued By Uncertainty, Or Ripe With Opportunity?













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