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Wonderful world of wind now part of power grid
ontario's first wind farm officially opened near Kincardine
Phil McNichol
Owen Sound Sun Times

A cold but steady wind turned the giant turbine blades high overhead in a steady, throbbing beat as provincial Energy Minister John Baird and other key players on Ontario’s troubled electrical energy landscape cut the ribbon to officially open the province’s first commercial wind farm.

The five new 1.8-megawatt wind turbines at the Huron Wind site beside the Bruce nuclear plant are capable of generating enough “certified green electricity” to power up to 3,000 homes a year, Huron Wind officials said.

That’s just a tiny fraction of the electrical energy Ontario needs. But Baird and a gathering of other VIPs at the Bruce Power Information Centre appeared ready in a series of speeches to embrace wind energy as a sign of better times ahead and a step in the right direction.

Baird called it “really an exciting occasion” and credited the Ontario government’s opening up of the electrical market to competition with creating the opportunity for such new energy initiatives to get off the ground.

Baird said wind and solar power “can do much” for the future of electrical energy in Ontario. And he hoped the new wind farm was just the beginning of more such projects. “We must continue to support clean energy production to ensure there is a sufficient supply of electricity to meet our needs now and into the future,” he said.

The provincial government freed the electrical market and electrical rates to rise and fall in response to supply and demand last May. But it recently capped retail electrical rates at 4.3 cents per kilowatt hour until 2006 after a public outcry over skyrocketing electrical bills.

Largely because of relatively high capital costs, wind energy is more expensive than nuclear and fossil fuel power. Baird was asked later in an interview if capping electrical rates could be a disincentive for wind energy investment.

He said he didn’t think so. Wind energy generators can still get higher rates for the electricity they put on the power grid because wholesale prices are not capped. Meanwhile, the province has added new incentives, like tax breaks, for renewable energy projects. And other, new renewable energy policies are in the works, Baird added.

He said the government became concerned about the financial impact rising electrical rates were having on families, businesses and farmers, so the cap was aimed at providing stability to “smooth out some of the bumps along the road” in the opening up of the market to competition.

Huron Wind is a partnership of Ontario Power Generation (OPG), formerly part of Ontario Hydro, and British Energy Canada. The partners will share the wind energy output and sell the green power to commercial and industrial customers in Ontario.

Wind energy is considered “green” because it doesn’t produce air-polluting emissions like coal and other fossil fuel-fired energy plants and is derived from a renewable source — the wind.

Ron Osborne, OPG’s chief executive officer, took the opportunity to plug nuclear energy. “I think about nuclear power as clean power, if not green,” he said, referring to the symbolism of having a wind farm next to a nuclear plant.

Osborne said wind energy will likely remain “relatively small” for many years as a percentage of Ontario’s electrical generating capacity, “but it will be an increasingly larger portion of the new generation brought on stream.”

In a joint Huron Wind partners statement, Osborne said OPG wanted to develop Ontario’s first commercial wind farm and were pleased British Energy (Canada) “agreed to join us in making this historic wind farm a reality.”

“Clean electricity produced at Huron Wind is a good, solid investment for the future,” said Duncan Hawthorne, British Energy’s executive director of North American operations and head of Bruce Power, which runs the Bruce nuclear plant.

“It will complement the clean electricity produced at the Bruce Power nuclear facilities. Neither source contributes to climate change or global warming,” Hawthorne added.

Helen Johns, Ontario’s Agriculture Minister and MPP for Huron-Bruce, also called the opening of the wind farm an “exciting event.”

Philip Andres, a local resident and general manager of Vestas Canada Wind Technology, the company that provided the made-in-Denmark turbines, said the winds that come off Lake Huron hold the potential for more wind-energy development.

But he stressed more changes in government policy are needed to provide more incentives.
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