The City of Greater Sudbury has taken another significant step forward in its quest to develop a wind farm.
City council passed a motion in July authorizing staff to negotiate a memorandum of understanding with REpower Wind Corp. and Northland Power Inc. that would lead to a wind farm being built within 18 months.
Once the memorandum of understanding is signed, a business plan will be prepared, including detailed information about wind patterns around the region.
The plan is to find good locations to build wind-powered turbines that will generate a combined total of at least 50 megawatts of electricity.
The electricity will be owned by the newly created local consortium and could be sold to major users in the region or possibly in the power market. Details about how the power will be sold are still to be determined and there are several possible outcomes.
This is the first major step that Sudbury has taken to move into the field of "green energy," says Paul Finley, project manager in the economic development and planning department for the City of Greater Sudbury.
The goal is to lower energy consumption through efficiencies and then to reduce the community's dependence on outside markets, he adds. By investing in renewable energy sources the city also hopes to diversify the local economy.
The wind farm is "part of a larger vision...that is technological, environmental and economic," Finley says. " It is a whole new industrial strategy for Sudbury."
The wind farm development will build upon the recent announcement that German- based REpower Systems AG has joined forces with local entrepreneurs to create a Sudbury-based manufacturer of wind turbines, REpower Canada.
"This will be the only plant in Canada where wind turbines are made and only the second in North America." explains Finley.
"Sudbury will be on track to become Canada's leader in the wind-power field."
Since Canada is currently lagging far behind other countries in the production of and investment in wind power, the potential for growth is huge, he says.
Earlier in the year the City of Greater Sudbury put out a request for proposals looking for private-sector partners.
Key areas of importance were the capacity of power production, the impact on economic development and the ability of the project to create opportunities for research and development in the Sudbury region.
The response to the request for proposals was strong, Finley notes. Close to 20 different private companies submitted proposals.
Before council passed the motion to negotiate a memorandum of understanding, Paul Graham, who is in charge of public works for Greater Sudbury, made a detailed presentation in which he estimated the cost of the project to be $86 million and anticipated annual revenues will be $12 million.
Graham outlined proposed sources of financing for the project that included possible assistance from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities Greens Municipal Enabling Fund and Greens Municipal Investment Fund and long-term debt financing that will be defined in the business plan.
It is estimated that Greater Sudbury spends a total of $185 million annually on electricity alone, and close to $400 million for all energy sources combined.
By reducing the amount purchased from outside sources, more money will stay in the region, Finley points out.
The energy produced from renewable sources like wind is also more stable in price.
The cost of production of traditional power generation methods like burning fossil fuels, can fluctuate greatly with changes in the price for oil, natural gas and coal. When the cost of fuel rises, the price of electricity becomes higher.
The advantage of wind power, Finley says, is that the only major cost of production is the construction and maintenance of turbines.
Since wind is always free, the cost of generating electricity is very stable.
Underlying the wind farm development is a desire to reap community/economic development benefits. First is the creation of new industries and jobs in the region, Finley notes.
Opportunities will arise in areas of metal fabrication, civil engineering, electrical component system designs, and numerous other fields, Finley says.
"Essentially, the (facility) will be an assembly facility, with the manufacturing of components being sourced out to Sudbury firms," Finley says.
But there are several other major advantages to developing renewable sources of energy in Sudbury.
In his presentation to council, Graham showed that, in terms of economic development, Sudbury will enjoy the jobs and economic activity associated with the turbine manufacturing, the design and contracting, the wind-data collection and assessment and the re-investment of revenue in EarthCare Sudbury and other city priorities.
Research and development will be stimulated by this new industry focus, Finley says. Laurentian University and Earthcare Sudbury will work on such things as rock-anchoring techniques, innovative tower designs, blade de-icing technology, power storage and much more.
And finally, the city expects there to be a major public education component of this initiative. There will be facility tours, a Web site, guest speakers, involvement from Science North and local schools and an opportunity for new curriculum development.
REpower Canada, to be located in one of the buildings in the Valley East Industrial Park, is expected to be in operation as early as this fall, Finley notes.
Overall, Sudbury is poised to become a leader in yet another industry. Its history of mining excellence and environmental rehabilitation has served as a base from which it now plans to grow into a leader in renewable energy production and development, Finley says.