CanWEA conference day 2

Yesterday was the day of heavyweight presenters.

Gary Lunn, Federal Minister of Natural Resources was there in the morning. He had flown from Vancouver last night, and is going back to Calgary for the evening. He said it was a measure of his support for wind energy. He didn’t say it was a measure of his support for sustainability.

He spoke of the need for “triple E” – Energy, Economy, Environment. He said them in that order. He spoke of Canada as an “energy superpower”, and mentioned oil and gas in that context. Then he said we need to be a clean energy superpower. He was less clear on how that happens with the tar sands. He did say wind was an “important part of the energy mix” in the future. Good. We are at last on the radar screen. But we are clearly a blip on that screen, and not yet central. He announced NRCan’s support for the Baies de Sables project, supporting it with “$31 million” in support. It was part of the ECOEnergy funding that was announced in January. He made no mention of small wind support, or remote communities support, two key objectives of CanWEA in the coming year. And he made no mention of the looming funding shortfall for the ECOEnergy fund. I left somewhat uninspired.

There was an outstanding presentation by Rhonda Milliken on a bird and bat radar study done in Alberta. It measured the concentration of migrating birds and bats over various topographies, to determine the concentration of avian activity, and establish safe setbacks. In Alberta, the bats in particular, land in coulees for the day to rest. Then they rise and resume their migration. Within 100 m, they are in sufficiently low numbers at turbine heights to be considered a very low risk for collision. The study verified the desired turbine setback. The distance required from certain ridge lines was 300 m, although that distance is likely to be different in different locales. It was good fundamental research, with Claude Mindorff of West Windeau sponsoring the work. Claude has a very creative approach to wind development.

In the evening the annual awards banquet was held. Bullfrog Power, my customer, won the group leadership award, for their development of the voluntary green market for electricity, that is having an impact in Ontario on wind installations, and now in Alberta too. Congratulations Bullfrog! Your work deserves to be recognized.

The Keynote address was delivered by Steve Sawyer, of the Global Wind Energy Council. After lavishing our leaders with scorn about the announcements from the Asia Pacific group of large polluters, which now includes Canada, he spoke of the technologies that can help the world to turn the corner on carbon emissions. He says there are three. Nuclear, carbon sequestration, and wind. The Asia Pacific Polluters communique mentioned two of these. You can guess which one was left out. He pointed out that scientists now see an urgency for the world to de-carbonize, and begin a downward track on emissions by 2020. He pointed out that the nuclear industry is in such a current state of atrophy, that they can only begin to help within 10 years. All forecasts suggest that output from nuclear will decline in the next 10 years, as it takes a long time to rebuild an industry, and as old reactors reach the end of their lifetimes. And carbon sequestration is still an unproven technology, with unknown economics – it is a long ways from being a substantial contributor, and certainly not significant by 2020. So that leaves wind (and conservation and efficiency, and some fuel switching) as the only viable option for large scale reductions in the next decade.

He mentioned Germany as a beacon of hope. They recently had a change of government, from a Green/Left coalition to a Right coalition. But support for wind and solar is no longer partisan in Germany – it is a given. So support programmes did not diminish, and deployment continues apace.

He pointed out that even with the enormous progress of the wind industry around the world, we still do not have our rightful place in policies of our countries, and the attitudes of our leaders. Sure we had 1600 delegates, another record. But we are still regarded as a marginal solution to the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases – the electricity sector. Wind is the only technology capable of fast expansion, that works now, and is sufficiently economic to win public support.
It was a sobering talk that complimented the free flowing wine at the table. Wind is getting closer, but it is still not in the inner circle where it belongs.

Maybe next year. But time is running out.

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