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Are wind farms the future of power?

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One of the many wind turbines that have begun to dot the Manitoba landscape as part of Manitoba Hydro’s wind farm projects.

PHOTO BY RICK SPARLING Enlarge Image

One of the many wind turbines that have begun to dot the Manitoba landscape as part of Manitoba Hydro’s wind farm projects. Photo Store

On a drive to Morden last month I came across the wind turbines near the junction of Highways 14 and 75.

There are 60 turbines in this "wind farm," which is known as the St. Joseph Project. These units reach into the sky some 130 metres, which is over 425 feet for those of you not familiar with the metric system.

The skyline has Ben significantly altered in this area since the project went into operation in 2011. The turbines convert kinetic wind energy into electric power which is then transferred into electrical grids similar to the manner in which Manitoba Hydro transfers the energy from water into electrical power.

We in Manitoba also have another wind farm active near the town of St. Leon (the St. Leon Project), just southwest of Carman.

Power users aren’t the only ones to benefit from wind farms as there is a huge boost to the economy of the local municipalities involved through taxes, land owners receiving payment, construction jobs and on-going maintenance which provides the local work force with paycheques.

The problem with the farms is that these turbines rely totally on wind and some days there just isn’t any wind. In fact only 2.46% of Manitoba’s electricity was provided by these two farms in 2013. Over 97% of the province’s electricity is generated by Manitoba Hydro’s hydroelectric dams.

Hydro’s plan is to build two more generating stations in the north (Keeyask and Conawapa) because of our future needs and with the prospect of selling power to the northern regions of the United States

At the same time, there are plans in place for three more wind farms. One near Elie, (the Dacotah Project) one near Killarney (the Killarney Project) and a third one located 100 km southwest of Winnipeg (the Pembina Project). The plans are in, the designs are completed, permits for the land are in place. But wind is intermittent and non-dispatchable, meaning it can’t be relied on to provide electricity when needed. For this reason the wind farms are questionable going forward.

Perhaps the Keeyask hydroelectric station should be built first and the Conawapa project tabled until another time. If Keeyask doesn’t provide the necessary power then perhaps Conawapa could be considered.

The wind farms just don’t seem to provide enough energy to contribute to Hydro’s projected numbers.

Rick Sparling is a community correspondent for North Kildonan. Email him at ricksparling@shaw.ca

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