Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Iqaluit April 20, 2012 - 5:14 am

Wind power for Nunavut? Don’t hold your breath, QEC boss says

Qulliq Power Corp. looks to hydroelectric instead

These two windmills in Kugluktuk never lived up to expectations — and over three years of operation the two windmills, which cost $650,000, only saved $43,000 in fuel. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)
These two windmills in Kugluktuk never lived up to expectations — and over three years of operation the two windmills, which cost $650,000, only saved $43,000 in fuel. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

Don’t hold your breath waiting for wind power to replace dirty and costly diesel in Nunavut.

That won’t happen, Peter Mackey, the president and chief executive officer of Qulliq Energy Corp., told delegates April 19 at the Nunavut Mining Symposium in Iqaluit.

But neither is Qulliq “anti-wind or anti-alternative energy,” Mackey said.

It’s just not a “research and development corporation,” he said.

And ratepayers don’t want to pay even more for electricity in Nunavut, he said, especially when Qulliq now faces the expensive task of replacing 17 of its 25 diesel power plants.

That’s also why Qulliq wants to move ahead witha hydroelectric project near Iqaluit, Mackey said.

At Jaynes Inlet, also known as Qikiqgijaarvik, a powerful river rushes down to meet Frobisher Bay, and it could produce enough power to meet most of the city’s electrical power needs.

To build that power plant, 84 kilometres from Iqaluit, whose development stalled a couple of years ago, Qulliq now wants to strike a P-3 deal, one which would use a public-private partnership to raise the $150 million to $200 million needed.

As for wind, Nunavut has a lot of it, but it hasn’t been not a moneymaker yet.

Windmill projects in Kugluktuk, Cambridge Bay and Rankin Inlet ended up producing little energy and costing a lot of money, Mackey said.

Windmill technology, which remains sensitive to cold weather, is high-maintenance, but there were no onsite technicians available.

This meant huge costs to fly in in to maintain and repair the windmills.

As well, people in communities where windmills were located thought they would see lower power bills, but that didn’t happen.

In Kugluktuk, where two windmills operated from 1997 to 2000, capital costs reached $650,000. But the project only saved $41,300.

The power produced also meant the diesel plant running on less then optimum speed, using more fuel for less output.

Calamities also struck the two windmills in Kugluktuk: one was struck by lightning and the turbine of the other one fell down, probably due to a lack of maintenance.

Wind farms in Nunavut communities that are located close together might work, Mackey suggested, because then wind technicians wouldn’t have to travel as far.

It also proved difficult to locate the windmills in Nunavut.

Those in Kuglutktuk and Rankin Inlet had to be relocated after construction had already started.

In Rankin Inlet, the site had to be moved because the original location blocked access to the airport for many aircraft. That windmill is still in operation.

Qulliq is still looking at wind power, but more to supply heat, Mackey said.

In Cape Dorset, Qulliq is looking at a project that would see wind turbines produce energy, which would be used to heat water. This could then be used to provide heat for buildings in the community.

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