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Plug pulled on wind farm

Could have had 'huge impact'

These turbines have been a fixture in St. Leon for years. Plans to build another wind farm have been scrapped. Proponents say Manitoba Hydro is set on building two dams.


These turbines have been a fixture in St. Leon for years. Plans to build another wind farm have been scrapped. Proponents say Manitoba Hydro is set on building two dams.

The plug has been pulled on a proposed 175-megawatt wind farm near Manitou that would add more alternative energy to Manitoba and be a boon to farmers, a U.S. firm said.

"There's no prospective view of any future wind farms to be built in the province," said Ed Pakulak, the Canadian spokesman for U.S.-based Competitive Power Ventures (CPV). "The focus is hydroelectric power."

The planned wind farm, next to the 63 turbines at St. Leon, had been in the works for three years, but never advanced past the proposal stage.

The good about wind power

  • No fuel costs
  • Short construction time
  • Low life-cycle emissions
  • Costs expected to decline
  • Ease of permitting
  • Local benefits to communities and landowners

The bad about wind power

  • Diffuse, intermittent resource
  • Not suitable for baseload
  • Prone to lightning strikes
  • Highly dependent on commodity prices
  • Cold-weather problems
  • Critics say the blades are prone to bird and bat strikes

In-lake wind

More wind power might not be on the table for Manitoba Hydro now, but it has looked at the possibility of building a 100-megawatt wind farm not near Lake Manitoba, but in it.

Like offshore wind turbines in Europe and the United Kingdom, Hydro has looked at locating massive wind turbines in Canada's 13th-largest lake, taking up 2,000 to 4,000 hectares.

In a report to the Public Utilities Board, Hydro says there are drawbacks:

The lack of experience with it in North America (there are no offshore wind farms in North America);

The high cost of integrating it with the grid with underwater cables and;

Dealing with winter ice. A 2012 best-guess estimate says it would cost $400-$760 million.

Hydro says large Manitoba lakes have a wind-power class ranking of five to six, some of the best wind available to spin turbine blades.

The report does not make any recommendations and Hydro has not put the idea on its to-do list.

Tentative agreements were in place with about 25 landowners for turbines on their properties and with the RM of Thompson. CPV is one of about a dozen wind companies with plans to bring more turbines to the province.

"It had the potential to have a huge impact on our community," Reeve Jason Vanstone said. "It would have increased our municipal revenues by about 45 per cent. It's not only income for our tax base, but income for a lot families in the area."

Landowner Philip Barclay said the wind farm would have created jobs. "The province is supposed to be open for business, but when you try to do something, you get the cold shoulder from a government monopoly."

Proponents say Manitoba Hydro is concentrating on building two new mega-generating stations in the north and believes wind is unreliable during our cold winters.

CPV's decision to pull out of Manitoba comes as the Public Utilities Board studies Hydro's bid to build the Keeyask and Conawapa generating stations and a new transmission line to the United States. Hydro says the three projects will cost about $20 billion, but should pay for themselves with increased electricity exports to the American Midwest, where a number of old coal plants are being retired.

"I don't know if they're biting off too much with two dams," Barclay said. "If they went down to one dam and a bit of alternative energy like wind power it might be a smarter route to go."

In filings to the PUB, Hydro has said wind generation isn't dependable enough to expand it beyond the St. Leon and St. Joseph wind farms, which together are capable of delivering 233 megawatts of power.

"You can't count on the wind blowing at the time you need the energy," Hydro consultant Dean Murphy told the PUB at a recent hearing.

Hydro said it examined the performance of the St. Leon and St. Joseph wind farms during the peak-load hour of each month from June 2007 to May 2013. It found the minimum wind generation during the peak-load hour each month was zero or near zero.

"Manitoba Hydro has determined that the capacity value of wind generation within Manitoba to meeting the winter peak load is zero," Hydro said in a report to the PUB.

However, wind power has expanded in North Dakota and Minnesota and provinces such as Quebec and Ontario. Much of the recent expansion in both countries is subsidized by government.

News of CPV's decision came a day before former NDP energy minister Tim Sale appears at the PUB to promote more wind generation and tougher energy conservation instead of the expense and risk of two new dams.

In a written submission, Sale said Hydro is "uncritically and somewhat hysterically opposed to wind generation."

Citing a 2010 study, Sale said Hydro could install up to 1,200 MW more wind power at no significant cost. The net capacity of Conawapa is 1,485 MW. It's estimated cost is $10.7 billion.

"In Manitoba's current electric power situation, do the two alternatives -- dams or a combination of wind, geothermal and aggressive (domestic conservation) both provide the power we need for the next decade? The answer is clearly yes," Sale wrote.

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