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Wind In Their Sales PDF Print E-mail

(This article originally published in the October 21st, 2007 edition of the Ottawa Citizen) 

There's a renewable energy revolution going on in Ontario, and local entrepreneur Luke Geleynse is leading the charge in eastern Ontario, a region that's been slow to embrace a provincial government program to promote renewable energy.

CREDIT: Rod MacIvor, the Ottawa CitizenLuke Geleynse plans to create seven wind farms in eastern Ontario: 'The technology is getting better every day.' He's one of hundreds of Ontarians hoping to take part in a provincial government renewable energy program.
Mr. Geleynse, of Terravis Wind Energy, is planning to create seven wind farms in the area. And earlier this week, members of the city's rural affairs advisory committee voted unanimously to support his bid to establish two of these seven power generating projects near North Gower. An open house this Thursday will allow residents to learn more about the project.

Mr. Geleynse is one of hundreds of Ontarians trying to take advantage of a provincial government program that promotes relatively small wind, solar, biomass and hydro-electric projects.

According to the Ontario Power Authority, Mr. Geleynse's projects are among roughly 1,200 applications made under the program. If they are all built, they would provide more than enough energy to shut down the province's four remaining coal-fired generating plants.

"It's an exciting time," Mr. Geleynse says. "Things are moving quickly, and the technology is getting better every day." Mr. Geleynse and his family run an agriculture equipment business in Brinston, about 65 kilometres south of Ottawa. In the past, the business largely sold cattle milking equipment, but occasionally dabbled in wind-power systems for farms.

Things changed quickly, however, when the provincial government announced its program, which offers 20-year price guarantees for electricity produced from small renewable sources. Any organization, business, or homeowner can connect their project to the grid and get paid 11 cents per kilowatt hour for wind, biomass, and hydro power and 42 cents per kilowatt hour for solar generated power.

The program is designed to help offset the high cost of setting up renewable energy generation projects. For electricity from nuclear and fossil fuel plants, the government pays 4.95 and 3.3 cent per kilowatt hour respectively. Power consumers are charged a rate of 5.5 to six cents per kilowatt hour.

Without the subsidies, power customers in Ontario would pay far more than the current 5.5 to six cents per kilowatt hour.

At the time the program was announced, government officials hoped enough projects would be built to generate 1,000 megawatts from renewable sources over 10 years. Each project is permitted to generate up to 10 megawatts of power.

A year into the program, there are enough proposed projects to generate 12,000 megawatts and more applications are coming into the authority almost daily.

"The program was the key," Mr. Geleynse said. "Once the price guarantees were there, it made financial sense to do this." Mr. Geleynse has teamed up with Prowind Canada, a subsidiary of a German company that's built several wind farms in Europe.

So many others made similar decisions that the sheer number of planned projects is causing a strain on the authority because several assessments and studies need to be done on each before they can connect to the distribution system.

The head of the program at the authority, Bob Singh, said more staff are being hired to do the assessments and move the projects along faster.

"We used to get between 15 and 30 applications per year from people looking to get generation licences," he said. "We expected a good response, but not this much." Indeed, projects are popping up across the province. The eastern Ontario area has been slow to embrace the program, however, but thanks to Mr. Geleynse and a few others, that's about to change.

After getting support from the rural affairs advisory committee, Mr. Geleynse says the next step it applying to the city for permission to set up the farms in Ottawa. He also has plans for two farms in the Brinston area, and others in White Lake, Carleton Place, and Lansdowne.

David Miller, an environmental planner with the city, said he doesn't see a problem with such a request because current provincial zoning guidelines and the city's almost-approved new zoning rules permit wind farms on agricultural land. Furthermore, Mr. Miller said the city's official plan calls for the promotion of renewable energy.

Mr. Geleynse said current data on wind strength already shows there's enough to make the relatively small wind farms viable.

As soon as the necessary government approvals are in place, he will put up 65-metre test turbines on the farms to collect enough data to show big lenders that the projects are viable.

Eventually, he sees between two and five wind turbines on at each farm generating enough electricity each to power 4,000 to 5,000 average homes indefinitely.

Each farm will cost about $20 million to $22 million, and Mr. Geleynse is confident that once lenders see the business projections for the farms, it won't be hard to get financing. "I already know there's enough wind, and with the guaranteed price, its a simple equation," he said. "It will be profitable." Still there is another hurdle to face: public opinion. There has been opposition from area residents to such farms in other areas. But Mr. Geleynse is confident that after people see what little impact the farms have, they will support the alternative energy source projects.

Mr. Geleynse is encouraging people to come to his open house on Thursday to see what it's all about.

"I want them to get involved," he said. "It's new and sometimes people have trouble with new things, but this is exciting stuff, really. It's the future." Open house: Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at the Alfred Taylor Recreation Centre in North Gower.

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Ontario's power sources

Renewable energy makes up only a tiny fraction of Ontario's electricity. In 2006, Ontario Power Generation power came from these sources:

- 64 hydroelectric stations 32%

- 5 fossil fuel plants 24%

- 3 nuclear plants 44%

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