Offshore wind farm on Lake Ontario: Huge potential

My story in today’s Toronto Star takes a look at plans by a local power developer that wants to build a 710-megawatt offshore wind farm in the middle of Lake Ontario, just east of Toronto. Trillium Power Energy Corp. says the project, which has secured access to crown land, would cost more than $1 billion but could be complete by 2010 if it can get through its environmental assessment and negoatiate a power purchase deal with the Ontario Power Authority.

If this thing ever got built, it could end up being the largest wind farm in North America, and one of the largest offshore wind farms in the world.

The electricity produced would be sent to the mainland via underwater cable, which would connect to the Lennox oil/gas power plant located near Kingston. Apparently there’s enough high-voltage transmission at Lennox to carry the power back into Toronto and surrounding areas.

The project would consist of 142 turbines, meaning each turbine would be a massive 5 megawatts each. John Kourtoff, president of Trillium, told me they’ve studied 36 years of wind data on the site — about 15 kilometres offshore of Prince Edward County, near Belleville — and have determined the project would not affect bird migration pathways. The turbines would actually be placed in shallow waters, no deeper than 12 metres, so there would be no risk of collision by ships. The bases would provide a sanctuary for aquatic life and should lead to a repopulating of fish species, said Kourtoff.

Interesting project, and Ontario could certainly use the additional power.

A sure sign that wind, solar have gone mainstream

I was searching on Canadian Tire’s Web site tonight and realized that wind and solar products have gone mainstream. If you’re not Canadian and therefore not familiar with Canadian Tire, it should be said that this retail chain — a kind of Wal-Mart/Home Depot combo with a big automotive department — is about as Canadian as hockey and Tim Horton’s. And tonight I noticed that the store is Southwest Windpower small wind turbines (Whisper 100 and AirX 400W) and Sharp solar panels. Not only that, but the wind turbines are a featured item on the retailer’s Web site, which has a “Solar Power and Alternative Energy” section.

This is a big deal if you ask me. Canadian Tire wouldn’t be doing it if it didn’t sense the demand, and given the chain’s popularity in non-urban markets I expect there are many rural and small town customers encouraged to see such a credible retailer enter the alternative energy market. Who’s next? Wal-Mart? Home Depot? I wouldn’t be surprised…

UPDATE: The Canadian Wind Energy Association released a report on May 31 “designed to facilitate the installation of small wind turbines across Canada.” As small wind becomes more popular, the association says businesses and homeowners are increasingly looking for guidance on how to install small turbines, while municipalities are looking for help when it comes to crafting bylaws.

Solar Sailor and “Loon” updates

I’ve written about Solar Sailor before (click here), but here’s an update on plans by San Francisco to use the Australian company’s solar hybrid ferries to transport tourists to and from Alcatraz island. “Ferry operator Hornblower Cruises and Events won the contract with its bid to incorporate wind and solar power into a diesel ferry that also has electric motors,” according to an article at MSNBC.com. “Hornblower has been working with Solar Sailor, an Australian company that operates a similar ferry in Sydney. Hornblower expects its first vessel will be built within two years and the second within five. The ferries could be each large enough to accommodate 600 passengers.”

BTW: Here’s an update on the progress of the “Loon,” a solar-electric pontoon boat developed by Canadian EV-pioneer Monte Gisborne. I first wrote about the Loon last August in a Toronto Star column. Monte, founder of the Tamarak Lake Electric Boat Co., wrote me an e-mail earlier this month about how things are going:

“CBC Venture is doing a piece on my business… we filmed my first customer coming up to pick up his Loon and ‘test drive’ it last week. The episode will air in the summer. In all I have sold 13 boats, which is three more than my business plan called for and the year is nowhere near over. My main problem now is finding skilled labour and other associated growing pains.”

I should point out that Wired.com ran a story on Monte’s Loon project last December, four months after my article originally appeared.

Good to see things working out for Monte…

Solar Sailor and “Loon” updates

I’ve written about Solar Sailor before (click here), but here’s an update on plans by San Francisco to use the Australian company’s solar hybrid ferries to transport tourists to and from Alcatraz island. “Ferry operator Hornblower Cruises and Events won the contract with its bid to incorporate wind and solar power into a diesel ferry that also has electric motors,” according to an article at MSNBC.com. “Hornblower has been working with Solar Sailor, an Australian company that operates a similar ferry in Sydney. Hornblower expects its first vessel will be built within two years and the second within five. The ferries could be each large enough to accommodate 600 passengers.”

BTW: Here’s an update on the progress of the “Loon,” a solar-electric pontoon boat developed by Canadian EV-pioneer Monte Gisborne. I first wrote about the Loon last August in a Toronto Star column. Monte, founder of the Tamarak Lake Electric Boat Co., wrote me an e-mail earlier this month about how things are going:

“CBC Venture is doing a piece on my business… we filmed my first customer coming up to pick up his Loon and ‘test drive’ it last week. The episode will air in the summer. In all I have sold 13 boats, which is three more than my business plan called for and the year is nowhere near over. My main problem now is finding skilled labour and other associated growing pains.”

I should point out that Wired.com ran a story on Monte’s Loon project last December, four months after my article originally appeared.

Good to see things working out for Monte…