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30 Fairmont Park Lane S
Lethbridge, AB
T1K 7H7
Phone: (403) 328-1804
Thursday, November 29, 2007
The Editor
The Lethbridge Herald
P.O. Box 670
Lethbridge, AB, T1J 3Z7 

Tomorrow’s albino mastodon 

Caroline Boschman’s  article “Power transmission focus of open houses” of November 20th  left me incredulous. She indicated that the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO) is considering the possibility of 6000 more megawatts of wind-generated power in southern Alberta. 

I went to the next open house in 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 a similar amount of reliable base load electricity 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 even scrap plans for the contentious Altalink and MATL power lines.  

Existing wind power subsidies are no where 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


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