October 2, 2006

30 x 16 raises the bar for renewable energy in PEI

Prince Edward Island has set a new target, dubbed "30 x 16," to reduce reliance on imported fossil fuels, strengthen the economy and protect the environment. Premier Pat Binns has committed his province to obtaining 30% of its total energy needs from local, renewable resources by 2016. Progress toward the 30x16 target will be made in stages, starting with the goal of producing 10% of PEI's total energy needs from local renewable resources by 2010.

"Each year, some $440 million leaves Prince Edward Island, as fossil fuels are imported to heat and power our homes and fuel our vehicles," said Binns. The 30 x 16 target, he added, "is about keeping more of those dollars in PEI to strengthen our economy. And it is about creating new opportunities for Island farmers and a healthier environment today and for future generations."

To reach the first-stage target, the Premier said Prince Edward Island will build on the success of the Renewable Energy Strategy launched in 2004. At this point, almost all of the 19 action items in the strategy have been achieved. The Renewable Energy Act, for example, requires electrical utilities to acquire 15% of their electricity from renewable sources by 2010; and regulations under the act allow for net metering for small-scale generators, set a minimum price utilities must pay for power produced by large-scale generators; and establish designated development areas for large scale wind projects.

Other achievements have included: creation of the PEI Wind Atlas to pinpoint areas with the best potential for future wind energy development; introduction of a provincial sales tax exemption for small-scale renewable energy equipment; and the establishment of a public transit system in Charlottetown.

The 30 x 16 target, said Binns, will raise the bar and strengthen Prince Edward Island's position as Canada's greenest province in Canada. Achieving the target will require looking beyond electricity, to our total energy needs, he added.

Environment, Energy and Forestry Minister Jamie Ballem noted that transportation fuels account for almost 40% of PEI's total energy needs, so renewable fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel will be key to reaching the 30x16 target. He said the federal government's commitment to a renewable fuels standard, mandating a 5% renewable fuels content for gasoline and other liquid fuels by 2010, will stimulate development of a biofuels industry and create new opportunities for PEI farmers.

Ballem added that biofuels could also replace a portion of fossil fuels used for heating homes and other buildings - the other key component of the province's total energy needs. There is also room to expand the use of biomass for space heating, he said. Wood, in its various forms, along with Charlottetown's energy-from-waste plant and district heating system currently serve to meet about 6.5% of PEI's thermal energy needs.

Turning to electricity, Ballem said wind will play an important role in the energy mix, with the first step being the completion of the Eastern Kings Wind Farm later this year. However, there is also potential for biofuels, biomass and biogas to meet some of the electricity needs.

The other important piece of the puzzle is energy efficiency. This is a critical component in the effort to maximize economic benefits and minimize environmental impacts of all forms of energy, Ballem said, noting that an effective energy efficiency program also defers the need to keep developing new, more expensive energy generation sources.

More information on renewable energy in PEI is available on-line at www.gov.pe.ca/go/renewables.

In related activities, Ballem reported that the PEI Energy Corporation will begin tendering this fall for equipment for the Prince Edward Island wind-hydrogen village project. Construction is expected to begin next spring, with the first phase of the demonstration project due to be in operation by next August. The wind-hydrogen project will demonstrate how wind energy and hydrogen technologies can work together to provide clean energy for small and remote communities.

The PEI government will invest $2.9 million in the project. This includes $2.5 million in earnings from the North Cape Wind Farm and $425,000 from Prince Edward Island Business Development. Additionally, a change in the management structure will give the provincial government greater control over the project, with PEI Energy leading the initiative.

A plan to have PEI Energy and Hydrogenics work jointly on the project has been scrapped due to a shortfall in private-sector funding. This led to funding formula issues that, despite best efforts, the parties were unable to overcome. However, Ballem noted, this will increase opportunities for purchasing equipment and services from PEI suppliers and developing local expertise.

The first phase of the project includes the installation of a hydrogen production station, a hydrogen storage depot, a hydrogen-fuelled generator, and a wind-hydrogen integrated control system.

Wind energy from the turbines at the Wind Energy Institute of Canada will be used to meet continuing electricity needs and to provide power for the electrolysis equipment used to make hydrogen from water. The hydrogen will then be used in a hydrogen-fuelled engine to provide backup electricity to the Wind Energy Institute of Canada, the existing Atlantic wind test site building, and the North Cape Wind Farm utility building.

Based on the results of this first phase, the intent is to have the control system power other homes and buildings in the North Cape area as the second phase of the wind-hydrogen village project. Development of the control system and its subsequent commercialization will be carried out by PEI-based Frontier Power Systems through an agreement with PEI Energy.

Frontier Power Systems specializes in the design, construction and installation of control systems to enable renewable energy-based technologies to be integrated into conventional electrical systems. The company is currently deploying a wind-diesel control system that was developed at North Cape, in a renewable energy project on Ramea Island, off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Details of the project's transportation component are still being finalized. PEI Energy and potential partners are discussing options that would demonstrate wind-hydrogen technologies in the transportation sector and give visitors to the site the opportunity to experience hydrogen-powered transportation. This component of the project could include a hydrogen fuelling station and hydrogen-fuelled vehicles. Plans should be in place this fall, with construction expected to start in the spring of 2007.

Mark Victor, is a professional engineer who has held several positions with the Department of Environment, Energy and Forestry, will be the project manager for the PEI wind-hydrogen village project. More information is available on the project Web site, www.gov.pe.ca/go/peiwind-hydrogen.

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