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30 Fairmont Park Lane S
Lethbridge, AB
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Phone: (403) 328-1804
Monday, December 03, 2007
Letters Editor, Financial Post
300 - 1450 Don Mills Road
Don Mills, Ontario
M3B 3R5 

Re: Wind advocates get blowback, Dec. 1. 

It’s great to see some engineering understanding of wind power generation entering into the discussion of Ontario’s future electricity supply. Chinook winds are driving feverish interest in wind power out West too. The Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO) is considering expressions of interest for 6000 more megawatts of wind-generated power in southern Alberta. This is in a system with about 12,000 megawatts of total capacity including 500 megawatts of wind turbines.  

At a series of public meetings AESO staff members anticipate problems associated with actually making use of such a massive installation. They point out the unpredictable input to the grid and the need for backup to provide power when the wind dies, as well as the need for a similarly oversized transmission system to service the wind turbines.  

Handouts at the AESO meetings indicate 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 startling comparison can be made with a recent proposal to build 2200 MWe of nuclear power capacity near Peace River. That installation would produce even more billable base load electricity for a mere $6.2 billion investment based on a typical capacity factor of 0.3 for wind and 0.9 for nuclear. 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 and MATL transmission lines. Wind power surely makes a strong case for the economy of nuclear power. 

Existing wind power subsidies are no where near enough (approximately $1.5 billion from ecoENERGY for renewable power) to provide all its promoters with the subsidies they need to go ahead with their proposals. Still, with all the emotion around climate change and “renewable” energy, Albertans too, need to vigilantly question the creation of a wind power white elephant of mammoth proportions which they and their heirs will be paying for.   


Yours truly,


Duane Pendergast


Alberta Branch, Canadian Nuclear Society


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