Home Up Services Contacts Commentary Letters Fora Input Publications GHG Emissions Guests What's New Contents


30 Fairmont Park Lane S
Lethbridge, AB
T1K 7H7
Phone: (403) 328-1804
Thursday, December 06, 2007
The Editor
CNS Bulletin 

Tomorrow’s albino mastodon 

In April, 2006 the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO) imposed a cap of 900 MW on wind turbine capacity in order ensure overall system reliability in a system of about 12000 Mw total capacity.  In October of 2007 the cap was removed by Alberta Energy and AESO was advised to start “working on ways to enable electricity producers to add more wind to Alberta’s power supply”. The AESO is also to “make sure Alberta’s reliable grid operation will be maintained.” A recent article in the Lethbridge Herald indicated the AESO is discussing the possibility of 6000 more megawatts of wind generated power in southern Alberta at a series of open houses. I was incredulous. 

I went to the next open house in nearby Taber. Sure enough, AESO staff acknowledged they had expressions of interest for about that much new wind turbine capacity. They anticipated the problems associated with actually making use of such a massive installation. They pointed out the unpredictable input to the grid and the need for backup to provide power when the wind dies. They were seeking public input and advice on the potential need for a similarly oversized transmission system to service the turbines.  

Handouts at the AESO meeting indicated wind power costs about $2000 per kW of capacity. The cost of 6000 MW of wind power would thus be about $12 billion. Several additional billions would be needed to expand the grid to get the product to market. Still more billions would be needed for backup power. A revealing comparison can be made with the proposal to build 2200 MWe of nuclear power capacity near Peace River. That installation would produce somewhat more reliable base load electricity (based on capacity factors of 0.3 and 0.9 for wind and nuclear, respectively) for a mere $6.2 billion. Such a system in southern Alberta could substitute for the proposed wind turbines and avoid the need for so much additional transmission capacity. Indeed, it might be possible to scrap plans for the contentious Altalink, Montana to Alberta Tie Line, and Pincher Creek to Lethbridge power lines.  

Existing wind power subsidies are nowhere near enough (approximately $1.5 billion from ecoENERGY for renewable power) to provide all the big business promoters of these wind farms with the incentives they need to go ahead with their proposals. Still, with all the emotion around climate change and “renewable” energy, Albertans need to be vigilant in resisting the creation of this albino mastodon of mammoth proportions which they and their heirs will be expected to pay for.   

Yours truly, 


Duane Pendergast


Alberta Branch, Canadian Nuclear Society


    Home Up Services Contacts Commentary Letters Fora Input Publications GHG Emissions Guests What's New Contents