Wednesday, July 22, 2009

On windows of opportunity

Audrey has already posted about the Saskatchewan NDP's call for the Wall government to take advantage of a buyer's market for wind turbines to boost the province's wind generation capacity. But let's look a little more closely at the story, and particularly why the problem faced in T. Boone Pickens' effort at building a wind farm wouldn't figure to apply in Saskatchewan:
Lingenfelter noted that SaskPower built the Centennial Wind Power Facility for approximately $270 million, a fraction of the cost per kilowatt that the Sask Party’s multi-billion dollar nuclear reactor plans would cost. He said it is well past time that Brad Wall expanded on the NDP’s common sense approach to renewable energy production through wind power.

“Wind power expansion might never be more cost effective than right now as the global recession has driven down the price of wind turbines and overall construction costs.” Lingenfelter said. “I know that American billionaire T. Boone Pickens, for example, is looking to sell up to 687 General Electric turbines to power utilities in the United States and Canada because transmission line problems have stalled construction of the world’s largest wind farm in the state of Texas. Why isn’t the Wall government jumping on this and other opportunities to expand our wind power production at lower costs?”

Lingenfelter pointed to commitments made by the Obama administration that would see 20% of US electricity generated by wind power by 2030. He said there is no reason why Saskatchewan couldn’t reach the same target even sooner.
The transmission line issue is described in more detail here - and there isn't much room for doubt that whatever concerns there are about transmission costs can't be used as an excuse to delay renewable energy in Saskatchewan. After all, the Wall government has made clear that it's entirely prepared to pour billions of dollars into additional transmission capacity for the benefit of Bruce Power.

So with some work on our transmission lines looking to be an inevitable step in any event, the choice is fairly clear between taking advantage of an obvious opportunity to move toward renewable energy at the best possible time, or tethering Saskatchewan's future to nuclear power alone with no regard for the costs involved. And it's a truly sad commentary on the Sask Party government how little likelihood there seems to be that the former will even be seriously considered.

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