The Cost of Power

Wind Power and renewable engergy requires an upfront investment of astronomical value

After reading Chris Benjamin's story ("Breaking wind," September 10) I felt compelled to comment on several sides of the wind power argument. As an electrical engineer working for a consulting firm directly involved in many of the operational and planned wind energy projects in Nova Scotia, I have experienced the polarization of public opinion regarding these projects. I don't know which side is right, but I do know that wind energy will only begin to create the sustainable and self-sufficient energy grid that Nova Scotia must develop.

If you ask almost any Bluenoser if their neighbourhood is windy, they will say that the wind never stops blowing---I know, I've asked. The truth is, it doesn't always blow: sometimes it dips and sometimes it completely dies. Wind is caused by temperature variation, and temperature variation isn't always there. The resulting fluctuations mean we cannot rely on wind energy to be available when we need it. We can only use it when it is available to offset non-renewable fuel sources.

A second point: Nova Scotia Power---love them or hate them---is a privately owned utility charged with providing safe, reliable electricity to the citizens of Nova Scotia. The company's operating principles require that they have electricity available when their customers require it. Wind energy alone cannot accomplish this.

Unless we have a way to store wind energy (such as pumped storage) or can rely on the non-renewable resources from neighbouring provinces when wind energy isn't available, there are limits to its effectiveness. While both options are viable, both are high in cost. That cost must either come from a wind energy sales cost, from the provincial government in the form of higher taxes, or from Nova Scotia Power in the form of raised electricity rates. In the long run, we, or more likely our children, will save on barely existent fuel costs and a cleaner environment, but it will require an upfront investment of astronomical value. This investment is almost certainly a necessity, but when the bill arrives we can't stare blankly back and say, "What the heck is this?"

Larry O'Keefe, Halifax

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