Conne River -
If everything goes according to plan, Conne River could be a part of Canada's ongoing effort to convert wind power into a useful source of energy in the near future.
For the past 15 months Gerard Joe, the director of economic development at Conne River, has been testing the potential of wind energy in the region for Wind Prospect, a leading international wind energy company with offices located around the world.
Joe recently talked about how the testing project began and how it might develop in the future.
"A part of our economic mandate is to seek out and look for economic opportunities for our community," he said. "Following a meeting Chief Misel Joe had with a representative from Wind Prospect in Halifax, we had an opportunity to test the possibility of wind energy in this area for Wind Prospect.
"We completed a risk assessment and a business analysis of the project, signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the company and here we are, 15 months later, into the test experiment."
According to Joe, the test experiment has proven that the development of wind energy in the Conne Rivera area is feasible.
"We know that this site (near the community of Conne River) is a good location for wind energy producing turbines. We have a constant supply of good wind velocity here, we have easy access to the site which is away from the built-up community and it's very close to Newfoundland Hydro's transmission line from Bay d'Espoir."
Joe said the project is ready to move from Phase 1, the testing phase, into Phase 2, where wind energy turbines would be set up to generate electricity that could be tapped into Hydro's transmission line. The company, in turn, could sell the excess power to its customers anywhere in the province.
He said that before Phase 2 begins, however, the Conne River Band Council and Wind Prospect would need a memorandum of understanding with the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador.
"If the MOU with the province is reached, there are two options for further development with the project," Joe said.
"Wind Prospect, which has funded the project entirely up to now, could come in and set up their wind farm, and we would receive three to five per cent royalties from the sale of power to Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro.
"The second option is that our band council could help with the capital cost of the wind farm, with a higher percentage of the royalties in the end."
Ready to move
Keith Towse, the vice-president of business development for Wind Prospect out of Halifax, said, "We're looking at exploring a number of different options with Conne River, as we are very interested in supporting the community in its development of the renewable energy resource in the region.
"Subject to discussions with Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro, we would be very pleased to move ahead with the current project in Conne River."
Greg Jones, the manager of business development with Nalcor Energy, the parent company of Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro, said the company is not looking to complement its energy with any more wind power sources at this time.
"At the present time, we are not seeking any further utility-scaled wind power here on the island until we better understand how the current wind farms at St. Lawrence and Fermeuse are integrating with our hydroelectric reservoirs," Jones said.
"Once we have that understanding, we will reassess whether it's right to proceed with another wind farm or not."
Jones said that if Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro does look for another wind farm, the company would, in all likelihood, go through the request for proposal (RFP) route that it followed with the wind farms presently at St. Lawrence and Fermeuse.
"We're very pleased with the performance of the two privately owned wind farms in the province right now that came about as a result of our RFP several years ago. However, we're in a situation now where we don't know if we can accept more wind power on an economical basis.
"About a year or so ago, we were ready to go out to the private sector seeking proposals to construct a third 25-megawatt wind farm here in the province. What happened about the same time was that the paper mill in Grand Falls-Windsor closed down, which jeopardized the economic prospect for another wind farm in the province, as the closure meant less strain on our power system.
"When we add more wind power to our grid, we run the risk of spilling water over our reservoirs. At our hydro plants we have to have a minimum flow of water through some of our turbines for system stability, frequency levels and, in some cases, for fish habitat.
"So, right now we don't see the need to replace one source of green energy with another at the expense of one that is already developed.
"However, as noted, over the coming months we hope to obtain more data on both of the present wind farms and look at how they actually integrate with our hydro reservoirs. Once we understand that, we're going to be doing another assessment to see if there's an economic justification to proceed with another RFP for another wind farm in the province.
"If at that time Conne River proved to be competitive with other possible developments, we would certainly be more than happy to entertain the possibility of connecting to a new wind farm in that area."
Joe said that, regardless of what happens with the MOU between the government and Conne River for future development, the test experiment with Wind Prospect will not have been for nothing.
"One of the things we have talked about for the future of Conne River is the establishment of a 'green subdivision' for the community.
"We envision that, within the next 15 years or so, a 'green village or subdivision' could be a part of the present community. This subdivision would be powered with electricity from the test site. The electricity for the houses, the septic system and the waste disposal system would all be generated by wind power."
Wind farms, which use wind-powered turbines to generate electricity, are used in about 80 countries in the world today to supplement their electrical power systems. Many countries, such as the United States, China, Germany, Spain and India, are making greats strides to develop wind power as a source of energy, as it is plentiful, renewable, widely distributed and clean, and produces no greenhouse gas emissions.
Denmark generates nearly 20 per cent of its electricity through wind farms. Canada hopes to supply 20 per cent of its energy needs via wind power by 2025.