GN runs with the wind

Turbine part of project to reduce diesel dependence

By CHRIS WINDEYER

A small wind turbine could soon grace the tundra near Ecole des Trois-Soleils as part of the Government of Nunavut’s strategy to reduce its energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions.

The project, which would see the construction of a 34-metre tall turbine that would generate 10 kilowatts of electricity for the school, was the subject of a public meeting in Iqaluit Aug. 5.

At its peak output, the turbine would generate less than one third of the power needed to run Ecole des Trois-Soleils.

“It’s more something the size of a motor than something that’s going to generate a significant amount of electricity,” admitted Lee Haust, an engineer with MCW Custom Energy Solutions, the company hired by the GN to oversee a wider energy savings program.

But generating juice isn’t the point, so much as demonstrating that wind power can work in the Arctic, and making the technology more familiar to Nunavummiut, Haust told the dozen or so Iqaluit residents who showed up for the meeting.

MCW is helping the GN retrofit some 39 of its buildings to reduce their power consumption. They also installed a small set of solar panels on the side of the old Baffin Regional Hospital.

Anticipating some common concerns about wind turbines, Haust said the model planned hasn’t harmed birds or wildlife in the Arctic (a similar turbine is installed in Kuujjuarapik.)

And Haust said the turbine would emit no more than 50 decibels of noise, which is quieter than a typical office.

Local opposition to large-scale wind farms has erupted in Nova Scotia and Ontario, where some residents have complained about subsonic vibrations, the noise of whirring blades and the visual blight of bunches of turbines.

But Haust stressed that the Iqaluit project involves a turbine that’s a fraction of the size of those used in commercial wind farms, and that there will only be one.

There’s also little chance that the spinning 3.5-metre blades would fling off built-up ice, Haust said. “At this scale, there isn’t any concern about ice being thrown.”

The turbine would be located about 60 metres from the school, although an exact site hasn’t been determined yet. Still, some in the audience were concerned kids might be tempted to play on the turbine or throw things at it.

“It’s like another addition to their playground that we’re putting up there,” said Louis-Philip Pothier, a former teacher at the school, who added he’s in favour of the project.

MCW’s Colin Rabnett acknowledged that vandalism is a real concern but said having the turbine close to town means the eyes of the community will be on the site. The company also views the turbine as a possible teaching tool: students could easily access real-time data from the turbine from a computer.

“It’s probably better connected to a building for its image…rather than being out of sight, out of mind,” he said.

There’s no firm timeline on construction of the turbine. Rabnett said the proposal needs “fine-tuning” before it goes before city council for the necessary zoning changes. If it gets the okay from councillors, there would then be an appeal period, Rabnett said.

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