WindShare: a stellar investment, a gallant icon

Update: now posted on the Friends of Wind Blog: Windshare: A stellar investment, a gallant icon.

I’ve never regretted my investment in WindShare. When I heard about the plan to put a wind turbine at Exhibition Place, I’d been in Canada for less than a month. We didn’t even have a permanent place to live when I put down my $501. I knew, though, that it would be an investment in the future.

Five hundred bucks seemed quite a bit of cash back then, but these days, it’s less than a flight to anywhere. It’s less than a weekend mini-break. It’s a couple of month’s car insurance, or worse, a car maintenance bill which I wouldn’t even grumble over now. No-one ever expects a car to appreciate after you’ve had the shocks redone, so in the same way, I don’t feel bad about my investment in WindShare not having a financial return. It’s had a much more rewarding return than mere money.

Sure, the initial offering indicated that we were supposed to make a reasonable return, what with the deregulation of the Ontario energy market. You don’t remember that? When the Conservative Ernie “Odo” Eves administration deregulated the market back then, you may have blinked and missed it. At the first taste of $100 power, the deregulation was cancelled, because market forces must always take second place in this province to re-electability. Poor Ernie; we almost saw his like again …

WindShare was supposed to have at least two wind turbines, which would have helped the return to members. For $REASONS, the other one didn’t happen: bureaucracy, lack of suitable turbines, fun with the TPA, lack of headroom from the island airport; any/all/some/none of the above can be cited. We were also supposed to export the model to a community-owned wind farm, but that didn’t happen. The province decided that any and all transmission and distribution near the Bruce was off-limits to all but the eponymous power company. So it goes.

Because of my wind power experience in the UK, I handily got on the inaugural board of WindShare. We campaigned for members around the city. We spoke to anyone who wanted to listen. We built the thing because we believed in the statement we were making. We didn’t hide our pride: we put the turbine where it would be seen by millions every day. If we could’ve put it on the lawn at Queen’s Park, we would.

We even sourced as much of the turbine locally as we could. The tower was made in Ajax. The blades were made in Huron Park. If there had been FIT Domestic Content rules back then, we would’ve aced them.

Now, not quite everything went swimmingly. A few weeks after construction, our vendor went bankrupt. A robust service agreement with a vendor is key to a wind project’s success. With the incredible support of WindShare’s partner in the turbine, frequent visits from the former service tech, a great local electrical service company, and hours and hours of work from dedicated volunteer members, we kept the turbine spinning. Try that with a nuclear plant. Actually, on second thoughts, please don’t.

We also had a slightly smaller set of blades than we’d ordered, having been promised longer ones by the now-defunct vendor. This meant we had to derate the turbine a bit more to avoid challenging operational conditions. Every year at CNE time, we’d lose comms to the turbine as one of the carny trucks would inevitably take out the overhead phone line. We fixed that one.

Other problems cropped up, too. The inverter would get a bit warm in summer heat, and go for a siesta. After building an effective cooling system, the inverter chugged along for a few years until it needed to be replaced. It was interesting working in Canadian generation back then; run-of-the-mill European power electronics were seen as weird new-fangled voodoo in Ontario. As we have lots of wind and solar now, IGBTs are no longer a source of IDKs.

Our wind resource wasn’t quite where we thought it might be, either. ExPlace has a lovely clear fetch across the lake, and historical data from the island might’ve indicated that. Who knew that most of the wind would seem to come over from the city, fuelled by the urban heat effect, and turbulent as all-get-out from chasing through the buildings? Well, we do. With ten year’s hindsight and operational data, that is.

So this turbine — little, (sometimes) broken but still good — what did it start? Well, it lead to the idea of community sustainable power in Ontario. It lead to the abolition of coal power in the province (which, if you can remember the acrid yellow goo that passed for air downwind of Lakeview, you’ll appreciate). It lead to the world-leading FIT program, driving the development of Ontario’s wind and solar industries, which as the last election shows have the overwhelming support of the people of Ontario. It also lead, on a personal scale, to my last decade’s employment building this Province’s sustainable energy base.

So when I see the WindShare turbine — whether fleetingly, from a GO train, or at extreme length when stuck on the terminally gridlocked Gardiner Expressway — it still makes me smile. We built an icon. We built careers then unknown to the province. We built hope. And from that, the return on satisfaction is better than any deal you can get on Bay St.

Why I didn’t vote for George Smitherman

I didn’t vote for George Smitherman because the secret deal he initiated with the Korean Consortium is anti-competitive and utterly counter to the spirit of any feed-in tariff. Pantalone, despite a rather weak platform, was closer to my ideals. There was no way I’d vote for that glistening oaf Rob Ford.

I didn’t vote for George Smitherman because I fundamentally disagree with the secret deal he initiated with the Korean consortium (including Samsung and Kepco). A feed-in tariff is all about equal access to the right to connect. The consortium, with its guaranteed grid capacity, sidesteps this equal access.

To make things worse, the consortium may have access to a price adder on top of the FiT prices. This is supposed to recognize the consortium’s expertise in the supply chain, and its consequential creation of jobs through local manufacturing.  There are many other companies — some of which actually have supply chain experience in the renewable energy sector — who would bring the same number of jobs for the same number of megawatts.

So, ixnay on the Ithermansmay for that. There’s no way I’d vote for the glistening oaf (a phrase coined by Catherine after seeing this picture), so Joe Pantalone it was.  Joey Pants’ campaign was, well, a bit pants, but he was the most appropriate of the candidates.

My comments on the “Renewable Energy Approval Requirements for Off-shore Wind Facilities”

Dear Mr Duffey

EBR Registry Number: 011-0089
Renewable Energy Approval Requirements for Off-shore Wind Facilities – An Overview of the Proposed Approach

I would like to propose that the mandatory 5km shoreline exclusion be removed entirely, for the following reasons:

1 Drinking Water Source Setbacks
While the “Technical Rules: Assessment Report”1 of the
Clean Water Act 2006 is cited as a major reason for the 5km shoreline setback, the assessment report itself provides for no greater setback than 1000m from a water intake in a Great Lake. It is suggested that this one kilometre setback be maintained for existing and planned intakes, but should not be applied as a blanket distance for all development. To force a larger setback than the Act allows is to discriminate against wind energy and the industry.

2 Lake Bathymetry

Taking the particular case of Lake Ontario near Toronto, the water depth at 5km from shore is typically2 40-70m. This is far greater than is practical, and would require massive and costly foundations.

3 Noise
The proposed shoreline exclusion unscientifically precludes any project coming closer to shore. As your document states that noise guidelines for offshore projects are in development, setbacks derived from these guidelines should be allowed. The document should also clarify that the 5km shoreline exclusion is typically larger than the setback required by the
Noise Guidelines for Wind Farms3, as at a recent MOE session on Low Frequency Noise Measurement4, representatives of “The Society for Wind Vigilance” stated that 5km was now the setback recommended by the MOE for all wind projects.

4 Positive Visual Enhancement
Wind energy is the most visual form of electrical generation, and it is a subjective matter as to whether the turbines are ugly or beautiful. The major shoreline constraint cited by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources is due to “aesthetic hindrance”5, yet the Great Lakes Wind Energy Center’s Final Feasibility Report6 wishes to site their pilot turbine as close to shore for “the highest iconic value”. Copenhagen, the capital city of Denmark, has an arc of wind turbines in the bay approximately 3km from the shore, and less than 5km from the Amalienborg Palace. By placing these turbines close to the city, they have made a statement of their commitment to sustainability, and avoided rows of pylons, which few (if any) could call anything but ugly.

I would hope that you would take my comments into account.

Yours sincerely,

Stewart C. Russell, P.Eng.

References:

4 12th August – 2300 Yonge St – 9:30-11:30am.

Continue reading “My comments on the “Renewable Energy Approval Requirements for Off-shore Wind Facilities””

Offshore Wind: much of Copenhagen is within 5km of offshore wind turbines

There’s a bit of a stooshie going on in Ontario renewables circles about a proposed 5km minimum shoreline setback for offshore wind turbines in the Great Lakes. This pretty much kills most projects through infrastructure costs — deep lake foundations are expensive, as is submarine cable. Please express your opposition.

I’ve flown over Middelgrunden, and found it to be an icon in Copenhagen’s harbour. With some freehand tracing in Google Earth and some minor GIS skills (hey, I’m learning), here’s how much of Copenhagen is within 5km of the turbines:

That looks like quite a lot; lots of homes and tourist attractions, and not just the harbour. If you want a closer look, here’s the buffer in KML format: Middelgrunden-5km.kml.

I’m trying to find the location of the turbine 500m from shore at Hooksiel, but maybe it’s a bit new for Google Earth imagery. Fixed that for me:

File: BARD Hooksiel 5km buffer.kml

Back from Elliot Lake

Horne Lake

Horne Lake by scruss

No photo description available.

Camera: NIKON D90
Exposure: 1/400
Aperture: f/8.0
Focal Length: 35 mm
Exposure Bias: 0 EV
ISO Speed: 200
Flash: No Flash

Somewhere between Fallowfield and Smith’s Falls

This is what quite a lot of the train journey between Ottawa and Toronto looks like:

somewhere between fallowfield and smith’s falls

hot off the press: Green Energy and Green Economy Act 2009

Green Energy and Green Economy Act 2009.

(more at:Legislative Assembly of Ontario | Bills & Lawmaking | Current Parliament | Bill 150, Green Energy and Green Economy Act, 2009.)

tat, too

Props to the older gent in the Tim’s at New Hamburg. “What’s the tattoo on your arm? I can’t make it out”, asks the server. “It’s supposed to be a panther’s head, but it’s not finished”, he replied. “I was meant to go back the next day, but I sobered up.”

CBC Radio 1 Bandwidth: It’s a Banjolution!

CBC Bandwidth had a good show yesterday on the many banjo players and styles in Ontario. It features, amongst others: Jayme Stone, Jeff Menzies, Chris Coole, Chris Quinn, the Foggy Hogtown Boys, Andrea Simms-Karp, the Barmitzvah Brothers, Jenny Whiteley, Sheesham and Lotus, Feist and Elliott Brood.

If you missed it, I saved a copy of the stream here: http://scruss.com/music/banjodwidth-20080322.mp3 (25 MB).

There’s a faint click in some of the audio (I always seem to get it from CBC’s streams), but it’s not too noticeable.

Ravenswood Opening

a V82

Yesterday — five years after the WindShare turbine started generating — Sky Generation‘s Ravenswood wind farm was officially opened. Ravenswood is the first wind farm built under the Ontario Standard Offer program, and four of its six 1.65MW turbines operate under that system. The other two turbines supply power to Bullfrog.

Tom, Glen & Martin
Tom Heintzman, Glen Estill and Martin Ince.

The Mayor, the Landowner and the Energy Minister

The Mayor, the Landowner and the Energy Minister cut the ribbon.

Glen shows the Energy Minister the SCADA

Glen explains the SCADA to Gerry Phillips, Ontario Energy Minister.

Here’s what Glen said about the opening: Grand Opening of Ravenswood.

Gallery: http://scruss.com/gallery/v/ravenswood/

gotta say yes to MMP

I saw my first anti-MMP flyer today (a postcard from nommp.ca, which appears to be run by a trainspotter from Guelph) and it surprised me that there could be such virulent opposition to what is basically a good idea. MMP, or its local variant, has worked very well in Scotland. So I’m going to vote for MMP.
When the Scottish Parliament got going late last century, it had a proportional representation system from the start. It did allow some minority parties in – like the Scottish Greens and the Socialists – but in doing so more fairly represented the wishes of the Scottish people.

True, there were some unusual antics in the house at first from some of the Socialist members, but I notice that they are no longer represented. Act like a jerk, nobody votes for you again – that’s democracy.

I’m not sure about the rise of the Nats, and the Greens are hanging on by one member, but it seems to work, and ends the “3 years of doing the opposite + 1 year of campaigning” to which majority rule seems to devolve.

cautiously optimistic

Ontario getting 2000MW more renewables is undoubtedly good news. But we’ve got some other concerns that need dealt with – lack of transmission, our woeful energy efficiency, consumers paying less than the true cost of power, amongst others – that make make this announcement less joyful than one might at first think.