Politicians, utilities line up to laud wind energy

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA - Wind energy is emerging as a central pillar in Canada's energy future.

Industry representatives were assured in Vancouver at the annual conference of the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) that provincial governments and electricity utilities across the country endorse their proposal for a massive expansion of wind-power resources.

Earlier, CanWEA released a major policy paper calling on federal and provincial governments to ramp up their support for development of wind energy - including the bolstering and extension of a federal green-power subsidy program.

B.C.'s first commercial wind turbine erected on the Dokie Wind Project, which is located about 50 km northwest of the town of Chetwynd, and on the prime grid transmission lines coming south from the WAC Bennett Dam.

B.C. Energy Minister Richard Neufeld took the podium at a morning conference session to say he sees wind energy as "a very important part" of B.C.'s plan to become energy self-sufficient by 2016.

Neufeld noted B.C. already derives 90 per cent of its electricity from clean sources, but added that the province has several incentives, including a provincial sales tax exemption, resource royalty holidays and "favourable land lease opportunities."

B.C. has three wind projects totalling 270 megawatts in advanced development and expects to add several more at the conclusion of this year's clean-power call by BC Hydro.

"There are solid opportunities in British Columbia for anyone that wants to go through the system, to work with the Crown corporation BC Hydro to help us be energy self-sufficient by 2016," Neufeld told delegates.

"We want to actually have wind energy as a very important part of that."

New Brunswick Energy Minister Jack Keir said his province is looking to develop wind electricity resources in excess of provincial demand for power, and export the surplus across the border to the neighbouring New England states.

But Keir said wind power proponents will succeed only if they recognize that local communities expect some benefit from the development of wind farms.

"I feel that the wind-energy industry is at a critical point in its development in Canada and we will only succeed if we learn to cooperate and work together in moving our collective agendas forward," Keir said.

Alberta and Quebec electricity system representatives said there are no serious technical obstacles to balancing the flow of energy on their provincial electricity grids when wind, which provides intermittent power supply, is added to full-time power production from more established generation sources.

"We've currently got 545 megawatts on our system and we have no operating issues with it," said Warren Frost, vice-president of operations and reliability for the Alberta Electric System Operator.

"We see these integration issues as not technical. They are more policy-related, more cost-related. There are solutions to integrating wind."

BC Hydro president and CEO Bob Elton said his biggest concern is that the volatility of global stock and financial markets could make it challenging for projects to proceed at present.

But he said a weaker economy could reduce construction costs for new wind projects, and governments that maintain long-term objectives for electricity system development will come out winners in the long run.


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