Energy - Wind

The downside of wind power

British Columbia Hydro International Limited was formed in 1988 to provide expertise to energy companies worldwide. After a financial scandal involving NDP and BC Hydro insiders, BCHIL became inactive. Were the consulting company operating today, BCHIL could be advising utilities that inexpensive wind power projects have serious drawbacks.

Unlike Site C in British Columbia, wind projects have relatively low budgets and short construction timelines. Those factors impede privatization of public wealth. While good for consumers of electricity, low-cost generating facilities offer only short-term benefits to those who build them.

An example is the Yanco Delta Wind Farm, 300 km west of Canberra Australia. Virya Energy Pty Ltd, the Australian arm of German renewables outfit Energiequelle, announced the project in 2021. Virya says environmental assessments will be complete in 2022 and it expects final approval in 2023. First electricity will be delivered in late 2024 or 2025.

The construction period of two years for Yanco Delta Wind pales in comparison to the 11 years required to build BC’s new Peace River dam. According to Virya Energy’s project overview:

The proposed wind farm will include approximately 210 turbines, a battery energy storage system, solar panels and associated electrical infrastructure.

The Yanco Delta Wind Farm is expected to generate about 1.5 gigawatts of sustainable baseload energy to help the NSW government transition towards lean and renewable sources of energy.

It is expected that once the Project is approved, construction will begin in late 2024/2025, and the wind farm will be operational after 2025.

The budget for Yanco Delta Wind Farm is between C$1.8 billion and C$2.7 billion. Using the mid-point, that indicates a capital cost of C$2.5 million per megawatt. Although the BC government has not provided a budget update for almost two years, Site C will cost at least 7x that amount.

According to its developer, the Yanco wind project would include construction, operation and decommissioning of the following key components:

  • Up to 225 wind turbine generators with a total generating capacity of approximately 1,500 MW,
  • A 500MW/500MWh Battery Energy Storage System,
  • Temporary and permanent ancillary infrastructure.

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Categories: Energy - Wind, Site C

9 replies »

  1. I had one question to ask, in relation to your link ( Yanco Delta Wind Farm) on the life span of the components that make up the turbine, but I had to ‘off-line’ to find an answer.

    Factors That Determine the Lifespan of a Wind Turbine and What Damages Wind Turbine Blades?

    One of the primary factors that determine the lifespan of a wind turbine are the environmental operating conditions faced by the wind industry. These conditions are site specific and include average wind speeds, turbulence intensities and SNIP (for offshore wind farm operators) the cyclic loading of foundations, jacket structures, and monopiles caused by waves.Snipped

    In addition to these environmental factors, there are the usual concerns for any structure based around fatigue failure from use over the lifespan of the asset. These include a variety of different parts and components, from wind turbine blades to wiring and hydraulic systems.

    Wind turbine blades need a special mention, as they are particularly prone to damage. As a moving component, the rotor blades are subject to higher levels of loading and fatigue, and can also suffer damage from birds or other objects striking them as well as the impact of high wind speeds or lightning strikes.


    • Generators and other equipment at hydropower facilities also need maintenance and periodic replacement. Improved efficiency of new wind turbines has resulted in many replacements of old equipment.

      Says Siemans Gamesa:

      Wind turbine blades are made from a combination of materials cast together with resin to form a strong and flexible lightweight structure. The chemical structure of this new resin type makes it possible to efficiently separate the resin from the other components at end of the blade’s working life. This mild process protects the properties of the materials in the blade, in contrast to other existing ways of recycling conventional wind turbine blades.

      From US Department of Energy:

      Carbon Rivers, a company that produces advanced material and energy technologies, has commercialized a process to recover clean, mechanically intact glass fiber from decommissioned wind turbine blades. Glass fibers are a key part of the composite—a material made up of multiple constituents such as polymers and fibers—used to create wind turbine blades. Typically, turbine blades are 50% glass or carbon fiber composite by weight. However, Carbon Rivers upcycles all components of the blade, including the steel.

      A sustainable, circular economy for the wind energy industry means that materials that previously ended up in post-consumer waste streams can go directly into next-generation turbine blade manufacturing.

      Also from US Department of Energy:

      Wind power is cost-effective. Land-based, utility-scale wind turbines provide one of the lowest-priced energy sources available today. Furthermore, wind energy’s cost competitiveness continues to improve with advances in the science and technology of wind energy.

      From Forbes Magazine:

      Most of the complaints against wind farms are hyped by anti-wind advocates who fall into a few predictable categories.

      Wind turbines are one of the two major wedges in the fight against global warming, climate change and air pollution. Along with solar energy, wind energy is going to be built in massive quantities globally. And that’s good because its negative externalities are so much lower than the current energy sources that they are close to non-existent.

      Wind turbines don’t have any significant side effects on birds. In the USA each year there are about 20 billion birds after nesting. About one in ten are killed by human-related means. Those are mostly cats, lit windows, power lines and cars.


  2. The government at the time should have used BC HYDRO to finance infrastructure projects (fix, repair, replace, build new). BC HYDRO could then have charged a low interest rate on the loans and the money made from that, could have been used by BC HYDRO for upgrades, projects etc etc.

    Rather than owning a huge debt, BC Hydro would have been used as a Crown Corporation should have been used.


    • When selling electricity to consumers, BC Hydro is a natural monopoly. You seem to propose than it should be financing private companies to make electricity that BCH would buy. That is almost the way it is with independent power producers (IPPs).

      The public utility guaranteed nearly risk-free profits to IPPs by agreeing to buy power without regard to its cost of production. Right now, BC Hydro is paying for privately generated power at ever-increasing rates that are more than 3x what electricity would cost if BC Hydro built its own modern wind turbines.

      In my opinion, BC Hydro should generate and distribute power throughout the province at the lowest possible price. That was WAC’s vision. However, the company needs to be run by industry professionals, with maximum transparency and minimal political interference.

      Early in its first term, Gordon Campbell’s government wanted to privatize BC Hydro but concluded that would be unpopular with voters. Instead, they decided to continue it as a public company while privatizing a significant part of its profits.

      Both Liberal and NDP governments have allowed BC Hydro to operate with little concern for accurate public statements. False demand growth projections allowed the company to spend wildly on unneeded capital projects. Nothing good happens when public bodies keep secrets.

      The Narwhal reported,

      An international hydro dam construction expert describes the high level of confidentiality surrounding B.C.’s Site C hydro project as ‘extraordinary’ and says he has never encountered such secrecy during his five decades designing, developing and managing large hydroelectric projects, including China’s Three Gorges dam.


  3. We should have had a full mix of renewable systems and been actively engaged in creating agile portable Generation 4 nuclear modules so we have the ability to be plugged into a grid that is capable of keeping power on even when we have severe perils like a supervolcano explosion or a medium/large asteroid strike. Our planet has a history of dangerous encounters with the real world we must prepare for.


    • The problem of course is how to deal with nuclear waste.

      Forbes magazine:

      High-level nuclear waste consists largely of spent fuel from nuclear reactors. Though it makes up a small proportion of overall waste volumes, it accounts for the majority of radioactivity. This most potent form of nuclear waste, according to some, needs to be safely stored for up to a million years.

      Japan has been wrestling with Fukushima and its nuclear waste in the almost 12 years since the disaster. The latest solution involves dumping radioactive material into the Pacific Ocean, which something that Japan objected to when Russia did the same in the 1990s.


    • Isn’t it fortunate that British Columbia already has may dams and reservoirs that act as batteries, able to provide electricity when needed.

      No one suggests that wind and solar is a complete solution but these sources need not be ignored.

      As you write, multiple types of power sources are desirable. Right now, BC Hydro owns zero wind farms and should be looking to that style of power generation to meet increased demand in the next 20 years.


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