Off-grid wind turbines make their way to Northern Ontario

This wind turbine charges a 12 V battery to ru...

Photo credit: Wikipedia

Waterloo – Large-scale wind energy projects in Canada have become politically charged subjects, but the potential for this renewable power source in this vast, wind-rich country are undeniable.

The Wind Energy Group, based at the University of Waterloo, is researching new ways to make the most of that obvious potential, while also solving a long-standing problem of generating local power in Canada’s more remote communities.

The group’s test community of Kasabonika, Ontario, sits roughly 600 km north of Thunder Bay. It is accessible only by air or by a frozen winter road that’s open for only a few weeks each year.

The community of about 1,000 people relies on electricity from three small diesel generators — a power source that is both expensive and inefficient. If trucked in during the winter, the diesel costs about $1/litre, and if flown in at any other time of the year, it costs roughly $1.70/litre.

In a remote community like Kasabonika, local wind turbines can be beneficial both economically and environmentally. Not only would locally produced wind energy reduce the high cost of transporting diesel, it would also reduce the risk of diesel spills as it’s transported through northern ecosystems and communities.

The Wind Energy Group plans to install a meteorological tower at Kasabonika to measure the wind in the region, and help determine how many wind turbines to install and how much energy could be produced. They are also currently working with Guelph-based Wenvor Technologies to modify the wind turbine for the harsh northern Ontario climate.

The Group hopes that this project, sponsored by the Ontario Centres of Excellence, will lead to many more throughout remote locations in northern Canada.