Wind power proponent argues for more prairie presence

Alberta has enough wind to generate all of its electrical needs — if it were harnessed through wind power projects.

Tim Weis, Alberta director for the Canadian Wind Energy Association, said that isn’t likely to happen, given the province’s economic investment in fossil fuels, but it would be possible in theory.

Weis told a Nov. 6 meeting of the Southern Alberta Council on Public Affairs that technology has improved to the point where most of the region south of Edmonton has sufficient wind to drive electrical generation.

“In the last 10 years we’ve seen a really significant growth in wind energy across Canada,” he said.

“In fact, there’s wind energy projects operating now in every province across Canada and every territory except Nunavut.”

Wind-driven energy capacity will reach 10,000 megawatts by the end of this year. In 2003, capacity was only 300 megawatts.

However, Alberta Electric System Operator statistics indicate 66 percent of the province’s electrical power is generated from coal and another 20 percent from natural gas. The rest is from renewable sources such as wind and solar.

Coal generation is likely to be phased out in coming years, but natural gas will take its place.

“We’re headed faster and faster in the wrong direction,” said Weis.

“The forecast is to remain heavily dependant on fossil fuels for the foreseeable future.”

He said Iowa now gets almost 30 percent of its annual electrical supply from wind. It’s 25 percent in South Dakota and 10 percent in Texas.

Weis’s promotion of wind power didn’t resonate with all members of SACPA. Several questioned the need for more power generation and expressed concerns about transmission lines that would be needed to connect it to the grid.

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