Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Wind energy is cheaper than new hydro dams

  • Print

Few Manitobans know wind energy is now cheaper than power from big new dams. Hydro is buying power from the St. Leon wind farm for less than seven cents a kilowatt hour, and from St. Joseph at about the same rate. Power from Wuskwatim is estimated to cost at least nine cents, and some estimates are higher.

When the huge infrastructure of bipoles and converter stations are included, power from Keeyask and Conawapa will cost at least as much and likely more.

Related Items

Manitoba has one of the best wind resources on the continent, and there are proposed projects across southern Manitoba for literally thousands of megawatts of new power. A number have all their environmental impact studies done, and are "shovel-ready."

For many years, however, Hydro fought very strenuously to not have to build or buy wind power. The provincial government literally had to force Hydro into the wind business.

There are simply no rational reasons available to support this resistance, especially in Manitoba's case, because wind energy when not needed can be "stored" by reducing the water flowing through our dams.

When the wind doesn't blow, we can open up our dams and make more water power.

Many jurisdictions, such as North Dakota with far more wind power already installed, do not have this flexibility, and would dearly love to use our storage capacity to firm up their wind generation.

Instead of building massive new "bet-the-farm" dams in the north, why not build more wind generation as we need it in the south? Municipalities would love the tax revenue; farmers would love the rent for turbine sites, and everyone would love the new jobs each wind farm brings.

Manitoba would have greater reliability of power in the south, and the lines from the north would be less burdened, providing savings in power losses as well.

Does this sound unrealistic? It shouldn't, because Hydro itself commissioned an independent study in 2010 on adding up to 1,200 megawatts of wind, 1.5 times the nominal capacity of Keeyask, to the southern grid.

The findings? Very little direct cost to Hydro for new transmission and line-loss savings that actually exceeded the costs of that new transmission. While Hydro has not released this study in Manitoba, it is posted on a public site of the Mid-western Independent Systems Operator (MISO).

Such a strategy would invest between $2.5 billion and $3 billion in our economy, and unless Hydro decided to own these facilities, would be financed by the private sector, with little or no new debt to Hydro.

It would provide power cheaper than Hydro can generate from Keeyask when the costs of transmission are fairly included. Perhaps best of all, it can be done on an "as-needed" basis, avoiding the high risk, one-project approach.

Clearly, by using wind, geothermal and energy efficiency, we can more than meet our domestic needs and our export agreements. Best of all, we will be positioning Manitoba for a strong, much more diversified energy future.

Of course, Keeyask and Conawapa are wonderful projects, and they should and will be built when economic conditions and the power supply-demand picture are less cloudy. But is now the time?

Tim Sale is a former NDP minister of energy and minister responsible for Manitoba Hydro.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 19, 2012 A11

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


Witness captures car driving through skate park in Charleswood

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Marc Gallant / Winnipeg Free Press.  Local- (Standup Photo). Watcher in the woods. A young deer peers from the forest while eating leaves by Cricket Drive in Assiniboine Park. A group of eight deer were seen in the park. 060508.
  • A baby Red Panda in her area at the Zoo. International Red Panda Day is Saturday September 15th and the Assiniboine Park Zoo will be celebrating in a big way! The Zoo is home to three red pandas - Rufus, Rouge and their cub who was born on June 30 of this year. The female cub has yet to be named and the Assiniboine Park Zoo is asking the community to help. September 14, 2012  BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

View More Gallery Photos


Will you miss the old Banana Boat building?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google