Homegrown wind energy cost effective, clean choice to meet increased electricity demand in British Columbia

Wind energy is a cost competitive and clean choice to supply the significant amounts of new electricity the Canadian province of British Columbia will require due to increased industrial development, according to a new analysis commissioned by the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) and carried out by wind consulting firm GL Garrad Hassan.

The cost of developing clean wind energy has dropped significantly in the past three years while technology improvements have increased productivity, the report found. The report updates older cost and productivity estimates for 121 potential onshore wind development sites across the province that are used by BC Hydro for electricity system analysis. CanWEA said in a news release that it "hopes this new data can make a useful contribution to the work underway to develop a new Integrated Resource Plan for the province."

The report found that wind turbine prices have dropped by 20 per cent since 2009 while at the same time the productivity of turbines has increased by as much as 27 per cent. The report is available at www.canwea.ca/windvision_bc_e.php.

“BC Hydro is facing an incredible challenge over the next decade as new LNG [liquefied natural gas] plants and mining activity drive electricity demand up by a third–or 16,500 GWh [16.5 billion kilowatt-hours],” said Nicholas Heap, BC Regional Director for CanWEA. “Fortunately, this new analysis clearly shows that with wind energy, we have an abundant cost-effective, zero-emission option to supply this new demand. British Columbians choose wind energy and other renewables as their top choice for new power in repeated polling, so this is a win-win for the province.”

The report, "The 2012 Assessment of Wind Energy Costs in British Columbia," found that there are 4.7 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity available in British Columbia with a lifetime cost of energy (LCOE) less than C$87/megawatt hour and 18 billion kWh available at less than C$95/megawatt hour, excluding only utility contract terms and the cost of the substations required to connect these resources to the existing grid. According to BC Hydro’s newly released Integrated Resource Plan, Site C [a large hydropower project being considered by the utility] will generate 5,100 GWh/yr [5.1 billion kWh] for approximately the same unit energy cost.

“With lower production costs and improvements in wind turbine technology, harnessing British Columbia’s wind resource is now an even better option for generating large amounts of affordable, zero-emission renewable energy,” said Heap. “With a much shorter construction time than large-scale hydro, wind energy is an obvious solution to meeting BC’s energy demand. Investing in wind energy will drive homegrown job creation for our skilled trades and the construction sector while also providing significant new economic benefits to regional areas hit hard by other resource declines.”

Tom Gray, www.awea.org/blog