While it may be a distant opportunity, the possibility of wind energy turbines coming to Gander and the surrounding area may become a reality once Newfoundland becomes connected to the North American power grid in 2016.
Greg Jones, manager of business development with Nalcor Energy, an energy corporation founded by the provincial government, met with the Town of Gander's economic and social development committee on June 1 to discuss how wind energy might benefit Gander.
Currently, there are three wind farm developments in the province - an integrated wind/diesel energy project in Ramea set to go operational in the fall and two operational farms in St. Lawrence and Fermeuse.
Jones told The Beacon the province can only produce a limited amount of wind energy because it can cause water to spill from hydro dams if excessive amounts are produced. This roadblock will be eliminated with the introduction of a transmission link in 2016 for the Lower Churchill hydro project.
"That really becomes a game changer, because today when we develop wind energy on the island, it's largely about saving fuel and meeting some new load to a certain extent," he said.
"As that moves forward, once we're connected to the North American grid, wind development here on the island becomes about what's the right thing to do in the long-term both in terms of the island's needs, Labrador's needs, and what's the value of our wind power to the North America market as a whole."
The transmission link will allow wind energy from the island to be sold to energy markets in the Maritimes, Ontario, Quebec, and in the north eastern United States.
As a product, Jones said wind energy has come a long way, and is no longer considered an emerging technology. "The two projects we have here in St. Lawrence and Fermeuse are both cost effective. The installations reduce the overall cost to consumers," he said.
With growing concerns about the effects of global warming, wind energy has a competitive advantage as a renewable resource that produces no carbon emissions. Even in setting up wind farms, Jones said they leave a smaller environmental footprint than plants used in oil extraction.
Each of the operational wind farms produce 27 megawatts of energy, which reduces fuel consumption at the Holyrood power generating station by 330,000 barrels of oil per year - 15 per cent of its overall production. This keeps 900 tonnes of sulphur dioxide and 149,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere, and can power 14,000 homes.
Aside from requiring wind, the farms must have close access to a transmission grid, and adequate road infrastructure for transporting the huge pieces of equipment.
To determine good locations, experts consult the Canadian Wind Energy Atlas, which provides data on the strength of wind across the country. From there, investments are made to set up wind monitoring towers. These 50-60 metre devices record data on speed, wind direction, temperature and humidity at different height intervals.
While coastlines are known to have better conditions of wind power, Jones said good wind farms can be developed on interior regions. "The whole of the province has an excellent wind resource."