Prince Edward Island’s provincial government in January put a hold on a plan to market wind energy to the New England states.

In climbing the wind energy ladder, this blip is, according to the Island’s Minister of Environment, George Webster, a necessary measure in lieu of the U.S. economic crisis.

Wind energy has made great strides in the past five years in Canada’s smallest province, so this shelving of expansion will not halt future plans. In the fall of 2008, the province presented a 10-point plan to further its commitment to wind energy. Premier Robert Ghiz, in introducing the 10-point plan said wind energy is one of the strongest forces in island industry. He said the 10-point plan is, in essence, securing the future and will ensure that Prince Edward Island develops its wind energy resource in a careful, thoughtful and focused manner.

The plan calls for the island to use renewable energy to produce 30 percent of the province’s electricity consumption. Right now, 18 percent of the island’s electricity is provided by wind.

“This is a unique opportunity for PEI, but it is not without its development challenges,” said Ghiz in an address included in the plan. He noted that increasing the capacity of wind energy to 500 megawatts by 2013 represents the single largest development opportunity since the construction of Confederation Bridge. “It’s a $1 billion development project with ongoing economic benefits estimated at $40 million annually.”

The first wind farm was built in two phases. In 2001, eight wind turbines were installed at North Cape, the farthest tip of the Western end of the Island. In 2003 the Energy Corporation installed eight more wind turbines.

Hence, in early fall of 2003 there were 61.52 megawatts of wind energy produced for the PEI market. That is enough energy to power 26,000 homes and displaces 100,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions…the equivalent of taking 21,000 cars off the road.

Wayne MacQuarrie, CEO of the PEI Energy Corporation (PEIEC) confirmed that all energy sold from North Cape to Maritime Electric is for domestic purposes. And in lieu of rising electricity rates across the province in recent years, MacQuarrie indicated that although electricity rates may not necessarily go down they should stabilize by 2013.

With the North Cape site fully operational, the PEI Energy Corporation installed 30 megawatts at East Point in the eastern end of the island. With this two up and running, the energy corporation had 150 megawatts of wind energy by the end of 2008.

But not all wind farms are provincially owned. In fact, the province is open to private companies setting up wind farms.

Over the past year, Suez Renewable Energy North America, a private-sector developer from Toronto, developed a 9-megawatt wind farm in Norway, with further plans to develop one at North Cape.

Jeff Jenner, senior vice president of the company stated they choose PEI for their wind farms because the island had reasonable costs involved.

With North Cape known as the Wind Energy Institute of Canada, Jenner said having this area as the Canadian test site was a major plus for his involvement in PEI wind energy.

Another private developer, NewEn of Germany wants to develop a major wind farm in Western PEI. “NewEn is one of the companies that has expressed interest to build wind energy with the release of our 10-point plan,” said MacQuarrie.

Adding up the benefits, the province’s 10-point plan indicated that with the 500 megawatts of integrated wind energy by 2012, PEI can and will be a net exporter of green energy and a global leader in integrating wind energy into the province’s electrical energy mix. Based on an estimated cost of $95 million for cable transmission infrastructure and wind farm development costs of $2.3 million per megawatt, the capital cost of increasing wind generation capacity to 500 megawatts is over $1 billion.

All of this will have significant impact on the Island economy, generating 850 construction jobs, $218 million in local construction spending and $16.5 million in tax revenues from construction.

With this in mind,  MacQuarrie pointed out that there are plans for another 300 megawatts of wind developed for the export market and possibly another 50 megawatts of wind for the domestic market.

MacQuarrie said that as for the export market, most developers have their eye on the New England states. “This could go as far as New York where there is significant demand for electricity with a significant interest in renewable energy,” said MacQuarrie and added that these areas have seen difficulties in the past with electrical generation projects receiving approval. This is due primarily to the populace not wanting to see more transmissions lines. “They see Canada as potentially supplying that electricity.” said MacQuarrie.

Closer to home, MacQuarrie said that Prince Edward Islanders in general are interested in this renewable energy and wanted to be a significant part of it. He explained that in 2003 the government provided an opportunity for islanders to buy shares with a 5 percent return per year over five years. “Islanders were telling us they wanted more of this (renewable energy) and this provided them with the opportunity to clearly demonstrate that this is where they wanted government to go,” said MacQuarrie. He said Islanders invested $6 to $7 million at the time.