Small Wind Projects are Expensive and Annoying

In addition to large power projects that are managed by NSPI current regulations allow for small scale power projects to be built by various community organizations that have no experience or expertise in the electricity business. Typically the actual work is completely outsourced.

The power is then fed into the province-wide grid and it is up to NSPI to make it all fit.

What does this cost? For perspective, the marginal cost today of electricity from thermal plants is in the vicinity of 6¢ per kWh, electricity from recent large scale wind projects is under 8¢ per kWh, and current wholesale price for imports is under 5¢ per kWh.

By comparison the Community Feed-in Tariff (COMFIT) pays 49.9¢ for small scale wind projects.

Those much higher prices are averaged in with other sources of power. Fortunately they do not amount to a very large share, but still result in a boost to electricity rates of perhaps 2% to 3%.

It is hard to see why this is a good idea. Homeowners do not express delight at having a wind turbine or two in their neighbourhood. Some communities have organized protests against new installations.

There is no chance that commercial customers will pay a high premium for the privilege (under the new legislation) of buying directly from such projects.

The government can do us all a favour put a moratorium on any future COMFIT wind projects.

But in a related area projects should continue to be supported.

A number of firms are implementing small-scale developmental tidal arrays in a quest to find a commercially viable tidal technology. For this they will receive between 37.5¢ and 57.5¢ per kWh, but the amount of energy is so small that the impact on ratepayers will be minor.

Unlike the small-scale wind projects, which make no pretense of experimentation or invention, these trials can lead to an exciting future.

If a tidal power technology is found that can be a competitive source of power it will be an enormous benefit for Nova Scotia both for our own use and for exports. The Bay of Fundy is not far from the New England market for electricity. And Nova Scotia can become a center of excellence in a technology that has worldwide possibilities.

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