The Wind Energy Institute on Prince Edward Island's North Cape.Long before you get to the North Cape of Prince Edward Island, you see them on the horizon. Wind turbines, spinning in tandem, go from the size of your pinky to towering edifices as you get closer to Seacow Pond along highway 12.
Wind farm a working labWith research money drying up, the institute rebranded as WEICan in 2005 and in 2008 decided to christen their own 10 megawatt wind farm as a living lab and innovative means of generating 85 per cent of their revenue. Today they foster relationships with 10 universities, work as consultants with industry, and are recognized as experts in wind energy integration. "With Prince Edward Island being a fairly small province, we can put 10 megawatts of wind in, which in Ontario or Alberta would be a very, very small part of the system," says Harper. "We're actually relevant here, it's a major portion of our generation." "The other thing that's interesting about PEI is, with the exception of some diesel that's there for peaking and back up, the energy that's produced here is the only on-island generation," says Harper. "We rely on connection to the mainland for the remainder of our electricity. So as we see our penetration over the last few years has gone from one or two per cent to 26 per cent, and we believe will be 30 per cent this year." With an average wind speed of nearly 9 metres per second, the North Cape is pretty much the ideal location for the institute and their wind farm. "Our turbines have a 93-metre rotor with a two megawatt generator. Our capacity factor last year was around 51 per cent, which is quite high."
Walking the talk - wind powers the institute and PEICapacity factor is geek speak for the percentage of electricity produced by a wind turbine, compared to its rated capacity An average of 51 per cent capacity factor is considered among the best in Canada. During the winter, PEI's wind resource is even stronger. "This past January we had a very solid month," says Harper. "It seemed the wind blew every day, our capacity factor just tipped over 69 per cent." Two years ago the institute installed a two megawatt battery storage system to learn more about how energy storage can help integrate renewable energy. Harper says they have used the batteries to help provide power for their own use when the wind isn't blowing. They're testing energy storage for time shifting, demand and energy avoidance, diesel displacement and frequency regulation. "We are seeing some value coming to us for these means now. I wish I could say it was paying for the battery fully, it isn't," says Harper. He says the batteries are helping the institute work with partners to examine different uses of battery storage to determine the value the services provide. The Wind Energy Institute does consulting work, undertakes research and even has the expertise to certify wind turbines. But, like many involved with renewable energy, Harper and his team know that wind isn't the answer to every energy problem. PEI has only had about 67 solar systems installed since 2008, but Harper wonders if solar can compliment wind power: "Solar is likely to be generating at those peak times of the day when the sun's still out and energy use is high," says Harper who explained that wind tends to be stronger in winter and at night while solar is stronger in the summer and during the day. PEI is now developing a new energy strategy. It looks like the province will invest in two new undersea cables to New Brunswick to assure they have a reliable supply from off-island. There are some who say PEI is tapped out on it's renewable energy, but after speaking to the energy minister, the CEO of the PEI Energy Corporation, Summerside's utility manager and Scott Harper of the institute it seems pretty clear PEI is determined to do more.
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