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Alternative energy in action
In the last decade, the development of the North has come to the fore as one of the priority areas of Canada's domestic policy, it is considered a "challenge of the XXI century."
“Canada is a northern state. The North is the basis of our national heritage and identity, its development is vital for our future, ”says the“ Northern Strategy ”prepared by the country's government. Financing of the northern territories increases annually. In 2013-2014, the federal government will allocate more than $ 3,3 billion in subsidies to support schools, hospitals, infrastructure and social services in the northern settlements.
In 2007, the governments of the Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut developed and approved a joint development concept that focuses on increasing the share of renewable energy in these regions. "Dependence on imported fossil fuels puts us at an economic disadvantage, all three territories are vulnerable to high costs, price fluctuations and supply disruptions," the authors of the concept point out. They also pay attention to the environmental aspect of the problem, since the combustion of hydrocarbons leads to the emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. As part of this policy, Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut have already developed and are implementing plans aimed at improving the energy efficiency of their energy systems and developing renewable sources - the use of energy from water, sun, wind, geothermal sources.
Hydroelectric power generation in northern Canada has historically been driven by federal investment and linked to mining projects. According to official data, in the Yukon hydroelectric power accounts for almost 67%, or 76 MW, of the installed electric capacity, and in the Northwest Territories - about 30%, or 54 MW. These are mainly small hydroelectric power plants built in the middle of the 40th century. The largest of these is the XNUMX MW Whitehorse Hydroelectric Power Plant (Yukon). Most of the settlements supplied by hydroelectric power plants keep diesel installations as backup sources of energy supply.
A year earlier, due to economic considerations and due to a shortage of consumers, a major project to expand the HPP on the Thalston River (Northwest Territories) was suspended.
Despite this, Canadians are generally optimistic about the future development of hydroelectric power plants in the North. The power engineers of the Northwest Territories even calculated that the total potential for the development of hydroelectric power generation in their region alone reaches 11,5 thousand MW. At the same time, in the near future, the increase will occur, most likely, due to mini-hydroelectric power plants with a capacity of less than 1 MW.
The energy of the polar day
Another promising area is the use of solar energy. Canadian experience shows that in the North, the most successful are hybrid systems consisting of photovoltaic panels with batteries and small gas or diesel generators. Thus, solar panels can reduce the amount of fuel consumed by conventional generators. The main limitation for the application of this technology in the North is its seasonality. In winter, with polar night conditions and peak electricity demand, solar energy is virtually unavailable. Until recently, the widespread use of solar panels was also hampered by the high cost of power compared to diesel plants. With the development of technology, world prices have also dropped, so the northern territories of Canada are actively planning development in this area.
It was co-financed by the government of the Northwest Territories and a local energy company. According to the calculations of power engineers, the capacity of these solar panels is sufficient to save up to 15 thousand tons of diesel fuel per year, and in the summer to provide 8,5% of the electric consumption of the city with a population of 1200 people. In February 2013, the capacity of this plant was increased to 104 kW.
In addition to generating electricity, solar energy is used in the summer to generate heat and hot water. In particular, the Northwest Territories already produce 79 MWh of heat in this way. Since 2002, Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, uses SolarWall technology to use solar energy to heat a local school building. The wall area on the south side of the school gym is 66 square meters. m. The technology allows heating the incoming air by 17-30 ° C, depending on weather conditions. Canadian experts have calculated that the installation of solar water heating systems in all 40 thousand households in the North will save 80 thousand MWh of heat per year from conventional energy sources.
North wind energy
Attempts to experiment with wind turbines in the northern territories date back to the 1990s. In particular, the energy corporation of Nunavut then purchased five units at once for the settlements of Cambridge Bay, Rankin Inlet and Kugluktuk. Four wind turbines could not withstand the harsh northern conditions and went out of order almost immediately: one of them was struck by lightning, another was overturned by a strong wind, and two simply refused to work. Only the unit at Rankin Inlet with a capacity of 50 kW, connected to the same grid with diesel generators, operated from 2000 to 2012. It allowed to save fuel in the amount of $ 22 thousand per year at a maintenance cost of $ 10 thousand. Last summer it also failed - its blades collapsed.
According to the company, these projects were very costly. For example, the capital cost of Kugluktuk generators, which worked for only three years, from 1997 to 2000 year, reached $ 650 thousand, and the final savings were only $ 41 thousand. The installation was expensive to maintain, because repair technicians had to be delivered to the village by plane. However, the company is not going to give up wind energy and plans to use it for heat production.
The experience of using wind turbines in the Yukon, near the capital of the territory, Whitehorse, has been more successful. In 1993, a 0,15 MW turbine was installed there, and in 2000 a larger 0,66 MW unit was erected next to it. This capacity is enough to supply 150 homes with renewable energy. A local power company is currently investigating the site for a few more wind turbines in the Whitehorse area.
The federal Department of Indigenous Affairs and Northern Development of Canada estimates that the average cost of energy produced by wind is still higher than the cost of energy from conventional fuels. Depending on specific conditions, it can vary from $ 0,05 to $ 0,15 per kWh. At the same time, in remote areas, the cost of electricity from diesel stations can reach $ 0,70 per kWh. A significant advantage of wind turbines is their environmental friendliness. The main difficulty remains the inability of the majority of the produced installations to work in northern conditions. The Ministry notes the need for a very careful assessment of the economic efficiency of wind power projects and taking into account the need for special maintenance of this equipment.
Alaska's power system
The northernmost state of the United States, Alaska, has climatic conditions similar to northern Canada, so its energy sector is in many ways similar to the power systems of its Canadian neighbors. With the exception of cities connected to the Railbelt regional power grid along the railroad, most of Alaska's localities are isolated from major power grids. Remote settlements, as in northern Canada, use diesel generators. In winter, fuel is stored in tanks or, in extreme cases, is delivered by air. 2013 statistics show that most of the electricity - 303 GWh - is generated in Alaska using natural gas, hydropower accounts for 102 GWh, followed by fuel oil and coal - about 50 GWh each. At the bottom of the list are renewable sources (in addition to hydroelectric power plants), which provide 8 GWh of electricity.
Like their Canadian colleagues, the Americans believe that renewable sources will play a very important role in the development of the region in the future. Experts from the Alaska Energy Authority hope that alternative energy will help, first of all, to reduce the economic risks arising from the sharp fluctuations in prices for natural gas and diesel fuel. The state legislature recently passed legislation requiring 2025% of Alaska's electricity to be generated from renewable sources by 50. Within 10 years, due to energy saving measures, it is planned to reduce electricity consumption per capita by 15%. In 2008, the state created a special fund that provides $ 50 million a year to support renewable energy. Priority is given to projects in areas with the highest electricity and heat costs.
This policy generally fits into the overall US trend. In his annual address to Congress, President Barack Obama noted that, thanks to federal support, the use of renewable energy in the country has almost doubled in recent years. According to official figures, it accounts for 9% of total energy consumption. The US Department of Energy predicts that in 2013, the consumption of heat and electricity from alternative sources will increase by 3,3%, and in 2014, by another 4,4%. The most noticeable increase is expected in wind power, where the installed capacity will increase to 73 thousand MW by 2014 year.
Alaska Alternative Energy
An interesting feature of renewable energy in Alaska is the successful, albeit limited, experience of using geothermal sources. The Aleutian Islands and the coast of Alaska are part of the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire, where most of the volcanoes operating on Earth are located. Studies have confirmed that the state has several high-temperature hydrothermal systems that can serve the needs of energy. Now, with the help of geothermal sources, one of the resorts not only attracts tourists, but also provides heating and power supply for its buildings. Several dozen geothermal heat pumps, which are used to heat buildings, are also installed in different cities.
For heating in Alaska, not only the heat of the earth is used, but also biomass - wood, waste from the fishing and woodworking industries, and city waste. In recent years, high oil prices have made the use of wood in the United States profitable for more than just heating individual households. In 2010, a wood chip boiler was installed at a Tok school, saving 65 tons of fuel oil per year. Now more than 40 settlements in Alaska are considering projects for installing wood boilers. The first large plant to produce biodiesel from waste vegetable oil from local restaurants opened. It can produce up to 1 tons of fuel per year. An interesting project was implemented several years ago near the city of Fairbanks. A local energy company has built a 500 kW power plant that burns paper pellets and cardboard. Its thermal energy is used to heat greenhouses where vegetables are grown for the local market.
On the other hand, wind energy is widespread in Alaska, and it ranks second after hydroelectricity in the list of renewable energy sources. The total installed capacity of the state's wind turbines - from small wind turbines that provide electricity to individual homes to turbines with a capacity of more than 1 MW - reached 2012 MW in 60. In terms of natural conditions, the western coast of Alaska is most suitable for wind power. In 2009, the state's first 1,5 MW turbines were installed in Kodiak. Now they provide up to 9% of its electricity needs. At the same time, a wind farm of 18 turbines appeared in the city of Nome. The largest wind power development project in Alaska was the construction of a fleet of 11 turbines with a total capacity of almost 17,6 MW in the Anchorage area. They are connected to the Railbelt regional power grid. Wind energy saves 500 million cubic meters annually. m of natural gas; it is enough to provide electricity to about 6 thousand homes in the state capital.
Of course, renewable energy in the North still needs substantial legal and financial support from local and central authorities. Projects in the field of alternative energy also require a purely individual approach, adaptation to the needs and capabilities of individual settlements, up to buildings. Such sources can be profitable in areas with developed infrastructure and guaranteed consumption, as well as in settlements with high costs for imported fuel oil.
One of the important conditions for the successful and sustainable development of the economy of the Canadian North is reliable, and most importantly, cheap energy supply. A characteristic feature of Canada's northern settlements is their isolation from gas transmission systems and North American power grids. According to official data, in 2011 practically all settlements of the three northern territories fell under the definition of “isolated”. The main source of energy is diesel generators. They account for 43% (in the Yukon) to almost 100% (in Nunavut) of the installed electrical capacity. Fuel oil is used as the main heat source.