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Testing the wind

Jason Unrau
Northern News Services

Inuvik (July 11/05) - High diesel prices have led to a new look at using wind to generate electricity in the territories.

Monitoring stations have been installed in Inuvik, Paulatuk, and Sachs Harbour to determine where wind turbines could be installed as part of a joint study by the NWT Power Corporation and Aurora Research Institute. The small test turbines could also go up in Tuktoyaktuk, Holman and Yellowknife.

"It's quite possible that wind turbines would save on the impact of burning diesel," said J.P. Pinard, consultant hired by the Aurora Research Institute to conduct the study.

While wind monitoring will occur in Inuvik, now generating the bulk of its electricity with natural gas, Sachs Harbour, Holman and Paulatuk - all diesel-dependent communities - are included in the study with the hopes of attracting businesses interested in investing in the turbine technology.

This isn't the first time the power corporation has flirted with wind power. With grants from the federal government, wind turbines were installed in Sachs Harbour, Cambridge Bay, Kugluktuk and Rankin Inlet in 1985. Only the one in Rankin remains in operation.

"We're working with the (Aurora Research) institute and re-examining our numbers," said power corp. president Leon Courneya.

It will include weather data gathered over the past year from airports and new information collected from the new 30-metre tall test stations over at least the next year.

"The (airport) data is from a once-a-day reading and from about 10m off the ground," said Bill Crossman, manager of Inuvik operations for the research institute.

"We need readings from 30m and continuous monitoring to figure out the most viable place to put the turbines in each community."

Although the 50 kilowatt Rankin turbine has been out of service for the past six months due to a broken part, during the past five years it helped reduce annual diesel consumption by 40,000 litres.

The original investment to erect the turbine was $300,000 and maintenance costs run about $10,000 per year.

Not taking into consideration the rate of inflation, the power corporation's cost of providing diesel fuel to Delta communities has risen 24.69 cents per litre, which represents and increase of nearly 57 per cent since March 2000.

In 2000, the average cost to the power corp. of providing diesel to all of its generators was 39.26 cents per litre.

This year that price is 59.61 cents. For communities reliant on diesel in the Delta, the cost is 68.14 cents a litre.

According to the Canadian Wind Energy Association, it costs between six-cents and 12-cents a kilowatt hour to generate electricity in "good wind areas."

The power corp. said it costs 91-cents per kilowatt hour for diesel-generated electricity in Sachs Harbour and 67-cents in Holman.

- with files from Chris Hunsley