Canadian Hydro enters Great Lakes wind rush

Ontario, so it seems, is leading the charge for offshore wind development in North America. Never mind that we’re not a coastal jurisdiction. This isn’t about the ocean, this is about the lakes. On Monday, Canada’s largest independent wind developer, Canadian Hydro Developers, announced that it was purchasing the rights to an “Offshore Wind Prospect” that has the potential to be a massive 4,400 megawatt, multi-phase wind project. That would  make it the largest offshore wind project in the world. Located along an 80-kilometre stretch in the middle of Lake Erie (on the Ontario side), the first phase of the planned developed — between 400 and 500 megawatts in size — is expected to be operational by the end of 2014.

Canadian Hydro purchased the rights from Wasatch Wind Inc. of Utah, and said it decided to get into offshore wind because of the feed-in tariff program in Ontario that pays 19 cents for every kilowatt-hour of power that comes from an offshore turbine. Kent Brown, CEO of Canadian Hydro — which is the subject of a hostile takeover bid from Calgary-based utility TransAlta Corp. — said his company’s offshore plans, on their own, should be enough to convince a foreign manufacturer to set up shop in Ontario. While it’s unlikely Canadian Hydro will be able to develop the full 4,400 megawatts, its entry into the field certainly brings momentum to the Great Lakes offshore wind energy rush.

Toronto-based developer Trillium Power is leading the pack. Its first project would be a 710 MW offshore wind farm in Lake Ontario, called the Trillium Power Wind 1, followed by three more projects that add nearly 2,900 MW to its pipeline. Trillium Power Wind 1 is likely to be the first major offshore wind project in the Great Lakes, and possibly North America. In fact, New Energy Finance says there’s nearer-term potential for development in the Great Lakes than on the coasts, and that Ontario is clearly shaping up to be a leader in offshore wind.

Just a few days ago, I reported that the Ontario government is in serious talks with Samsung C&T about bringing wind and solar manufacturing to Ontario. Samsung is also on record saying it’s interested in entering the offshore market, so perhaps there’s an opportunity there. And who knows, GE, since its purchase of offshore turbine maker ScanWind, may be tempted to chase this market as well. The Great Lakes are an interesting place to develop. It’s shallower, less turbulent, and there’s no salt water to play havoc with turbine machinery. All of this reduces wear and tear on gear, and allows for quicker construction because, unlike ocean-based projects, you don’t have to contend with often violent weather that causes costly delays. Now, one potential problem is ice flow, and that’s something developers will have to deal with. But certainly the opportunity is there for developers of offshore wind in the Great Lakes to put up projects at lower cost than the big ocean-based projects we’re seeing in Europe. They now have to prove it.

Samsung in advanced talks to set up wind, solar manufacturing in Ontario

I just learned — and confirmed — today that South Korean industrial and electronics giant Samsung Group is in serious, high-level talks with the Ontario government about setting up manufacturing operations in the province for wind, and possibly solar, that would be used to supply its own renewable-energy development projects in the area and neighbouring jurisdictions. A framework agreement could be signed soon, and would pave the way for the creation of hundreds of jobs and the investment of billions of dollars in the province.

This comes on the heels of the long-awaited launch of Ontario’s feed-in tariff (FIT) program, which was accompanied by an announcement of local content rules that will required 25 per cent Ontario content for wind and 40 to 50 per cent for solar. On Jan. 1, 2011, the solar target will rise to 60 per cent, while wind will jump to 50 per cent on Jan 1, 2012. Read story here for more details, and click here for list of feed-in tariff rates. UPDATE: Government put out a statement here.

I’ll be writing more analysis and commentary later on the FIT program and what to expect.

1-MW tidal turbine to be submerged this fall in Bay of Fundy

Nova Scotia Power has partnered up with Dublin, Ireland-based OpenHydro Group to install a 1-megawatt tidal turbine to the seabed in the Bay of Fundy. It’s OpenHydro’s first installation of its 1-MW machine and is expected to be fully operational later this fall. Over two years the two companies will collect operational data, including impacts on environment, robustness of equipment, and power generation. The sub-sea base was manufactured by a local company in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.

The OpenHydro turbine is one of three being tested under a Nova Scotia government pilot program, which aims to tap the immense tidal-energy potential in the Bay of Fundy. The Electric Power Research Institute has identified the Bay as one of the best — if not the best — sites in North America to develop tidal-energy projects. In fact, it’s capable of realistically generating 300 megawatts of tital power. U.K.-based Marine Current and B.C.-based Clean Current are the other two turbine concepts slated for testing.

Canadian property association pledges to cut energy use in office buildings in half by 2015

The Real Property Association of Canada, whose members are property investors representing more than $150 billion in real-estate assets, has formally adopted an energy-consumption target for office buildings equal to 20 kilowatt-hours of energy use per square foot of rentable area per year, and they’ve pledged to reach that target by 2015. “The target represents a reduction of up to one half of today’s energy use in Canadian office buildings,” according to a just-released report. “Achieving the target will lead to an estimated energy cost savings in the order of $18.5 billion a year, and greenhouse gas emissions savings of 7.5 megatonnes per year contributing to 5 per cent of Canada’s national 2020 goal.”

The target was derived from large pilot projects conducted last year by the Canada Green Building Council, which created a large, detailed database of office building energy use performance. ” Audits were conducted of top-performing buildings to document their building system characteristics, leading to identification of best practice design standards,” according to the report. The audits found that there was a large range of energy use per square foot, with some buildings using more than twice as much energy. Surprisingly, results showed no co-relation to building age. In fact, some of the oldest buildings — as much as 40 years old — were among the most energy efficient. Getting to the efficiency target by 2015 will be a challenge, the association concedes. “The good news is that operating cost savings should generally be greater and Capex less than had previously been expected, with higher rates of return on investments,” it states. “The more challenging conclusion is that high levels of performance cannot be achieved and sustained without significant organizational change to align policy, management, leasing, procurement, and HR programs with the demands of consistent energy efficient practice.”

Kudos to RealPAC for doing more than our government is prepared to do by tightening building-code rules.

Masdar City team seeks out cleantech gems in Canada

My Clean Break column this week is about the $22-billion Masdar City project in oil-rich Abu Dhabi and the recent visit by a delegation of project officials to Toronto, where they met with a number of cleantech companies from around Canada. The folks overseeing development of Masdar City have been on the hunt for technologies that can help them achieve their goals of zero emissions, zero waste, zero cars, and of course those companies that can play a role will have one of the best showcases in the world. Ironic, however, that the money used to fund this ambitious clean-energy project will come from dirty-energy revenues. But hey, smoke’em if you got’em.