Archive for March, 2007

Teacher of the Year

Wednesday, March 28th, 2007

My mother (thanks Mom!) clipped a piece that was published in the Guelph Mercury. It was a full page of letters written by Ms. Witte’s grade seven class to Mr. Woschnigg. Mr. Woschnigg lives just north of Guelph, and has installed an 80 kW Lagerway turbine. The Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) informed him that the assessed value of his property would rise by something like $59,000. His increase in property taxes would roughly equal the value of energy he would produce. I understand that MPAC has now referred the issue to the Ministry of Finance. I hope this is just an administrative error, and that the logic applied to commercial scale wind turbines, an earlier blog entry, can also apply to small turbines. Ms. Witte used the story as an environmental and civics lesson. I wrote her and her class a letter. Here it is.

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Return to Meaford

Monday, March 26th, 2007

I did a presentation at the Kimbercote Centre Renewable Energy Conference yesterday.  It is a farm in the Beaver Valley, that has facilities for groups to get together on environmental and social justice issues.  It has spectacular views, and a good cadre of volunteers.  Well worth the visit.

It was a beautiful early spring day.  Early spring in Ontario is quite grey – the leaves aren’t out, the snow that remains is dirty, and there is mud everywhere.  But unlike November grey, there are signs of hope everywhere.  The creeks are full, there are flocks of returning birds, and many first sightings, like my first turkey vulture of the season, and people are enjoying the sun.  The neighbours finished their sap boil yesterday, and yeilded about 6 l of syrup from about 5 trees.

I ran into Bill Murdoch, the local Conservative Member of Provinicial Parliament on the way in.  The Centre had received some provincial funding to host the conference, and install some solar thermal and photovoltaic panels.  I have met Bill several times, and although I suspect I would disagree with him on many issues, I like him as a person.  He is not a normal policitian – he is honest and frank when he speaks.  That seems to go down well in this area.

The conference was very well attended – about 60 in total – with people from as far away as Guelph and Toronto, as well as a good local representation.  There was a good mix of age groups, from university students, to seniors.  I was presenting before Dave Cooke and Ziggy – all three of us are from Lion’s Head – we owned the afternoon.  Dave Cooke’s presentation was on personal power, including wind and solar.  He makes a powerful point about the value of power that is generated near where it is used, compared to the value of power that has to be transported great distances, at great cost, and with substantial losses in energy.

Ziggy talked about his installation of solar and wind at his home.  He described the day he call up Ontario Hydro and told them to disconnect him.  They told him he couldn’t do that.  But of course he did.  With his tongue planted in his cheek, he said it was the “Proudest day of his life.”

In my talk, titled “Wind Power in Ontario”, I described the current situation with wind in Ontario, and compared the 415 MW of wind that Ontario has with the 22,000 MW Germany has.  I talked about the OPA study that says Ontario could absorb 5000 MW of wind, enough to supply 8% of Ontario’s needs, with virtually no changes to the system required.  I described the activities of the some of those opposed to wind, and speculated on their motivation, and debunked some of their claims.  And then we got to the discussion.

The crowd seemed to want to know how far we could go with wind to move our electricity system to a fully renewable path.  So I talked about how waterpower can be used to back up wind, and how Ontario already gets 25% of its power from water.  I said that if we wanted more storage, we just had to cut deals with our neighbours – Manitoba and Quebec, and use their reservoirs to firm up our wind.  Of course the point about how geographic diversity of wind firms the supply was made, and understood.  It was a lively discussion, and the crowd was engaged.  You could tell that the wheels were turning.

I’ve often said that the people are ahead of the politicians on environmental issues.  This conference proved it once again.  The people are looking for answers.  And they won’t take no for an answer.

It was good to be back in Meaford.

Business as Usual Budget

Tuesday, March 20th, 2007

“Business as usual” is a phrase used by economists and environmentalists alike when referring to future emissions levels. They ask, “What will be the emissions if we carry on with business as we have done in the past?” Then they can compare the business as usual prediction with what will happen if they implement various measures.

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Meaford Talk

Friday, March 16th, 2007

I gave a talk in Meaford last night, at the invitation of Greg and Suzanne. It was held in the beautifully refurbished Meaford Hall. I was impressed with their choice of T5 flurorescent lights – close to the most energy efficient of all. Meaford gets it. The title of the talk, as suggested by my hosts was, Windpower: Facts and Myths.

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“I don’t think we’re going to make it.”

Thursday, March 15th, 2007

At a recent conference in California, venture capitalist John Doerr addressed the crowd.  He was discussing climate change, and how both business and governments have a responsibility to take immediate action.  As he looked at his 15 year old daughter sitting in the front row, he choked up and said, “I’m scared.  I don’t think we’re going to make it.”

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Subsidies for McKenzie Valley Pipeline

Wednesday, March 14th, 2007

The unmitigated gall of the fossil fuel companies knows no end.  The Toronto Star reports yesterday that Imperial Oil is going to be requesting tax subsidies to support their pipeline.  The regime of subsidizing fossil fuels has to end.  The Bruce Peninsula Environment Group  wrote a letter to the Finance Minister on this topic.  I hope you do likewise.

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The end of dirty coal?

Wednesday, March 7th, 2007

There was an interesting article in the Globe and Mail about a proposed acquisition of Texas Utilities (TXU) by a private leverage buyout.  TXU scrapped plans for 8 of their proposed new coal plants, as part of a move to placate environmental groups, so the regulator would allow the transaction.

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Icing

Tuesday, March 6th, 2007

In the wind business, icing is not a sweet spread that you put on cake.  It is a coat of ice that can affect production, and there is nothing sweet about it.

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Production Update Feb 2007

Thursday, March 1st, 2007

The wind farm set a new record for production since the 2 new turbines were installed on Oct 31, 2006.  The 5.1 MW wind farm produced  a net of 1,790 MWh, for a capacity factor of 52%.  And this was in a 28 day month!  February was a Goldilocks month.  Not too windy.  Not too calm.  But just right.

There were a couple of small maintenance issues.  The middle turbine was shut down for a few hours, to replace an amometer.  The whole wind farm was shut down for a few hours while we did some testing of transfer trip, a Hydro One requirement.  But overall, the wind farm had very good availability.
The wind farm produced at least some power more than 95% of the time.

The rest of the wind farms in Ontario seemed to also have a good month.  The 67 MW Amaranth project, at Shelburne, produced 22,542 MWh, or 49.7% capacity factor.  The 40 MW Kingsbridge project, near Goderich, produced 15,333 MWh, or 58% capacity factor.  The 99 MW Erie Shores project, produced 31,798 MWh, or 47.8% capacity factor.  The 189 MW Prince Project, near the Sault, produced 43,382 MWh, or 34.2% capacity factor.

So in total, Ontario’s wind farms who’s information is public, plus Ferndale, produced 114, 855 MWh.  If this February’s demand for power in Ontario was the same as last year, this would be about 0.9% of total demand.  Not bad for 5 reporting wind farms, at this early stage in Ontario’s wind development.  This February’s demand may well have been higher, though, due to the cold weather.  While 0.9% may not sound like much, consider that coal provided only 16% of Ontario’s power over the past year.  Wind took a bite out of fossil use this month.
Why did these projects have different capacity factors?  Different models and equipment will have different capacity factors in the same wind regime.    Different locations.  There seemed top be several storms that blew through the south part of the province, that nipped Ferndale, but missed the Sault.  Don’t worry.  They will get their storms too.

As I write this, the winds on the Ferndale flats are howling at 15 m/sec (60 km/hr), down from 19 m/sec a couple of hours ago, as I drove home through the snow.  March has come in like a lion.

It’s enough to make me into a cat person.