In the Canadian north the publicly-owned utilities have largely shied away from wind energy, while two big mining companies have embraced it. The latest addition is a giant $22 million 120 m tall windmill at the Raglan mine site in Nunavik (northern Quebec).
The new turbine is the work of Glencore, which owns the Raglan nickel mine, located about 100 kilometres south of Salluit along the northern tip of the region. Glencore is hoping to save costs on its roughly 60 million litres of diesel a year. The goal of Raglan’s pilot project is to capture enough wind energy to cut back on 2.5 million litres of diesel at the mine site.
The three megawatt wind turbine at Raglan will be coupled with a 1.8 megawatt wind energy storage device — the first of its kind in the Canadian Arctic. The provincial and federal governments have already financed more than half the cost.
Interestingly, the base for the giant tower will not have a concrete foundation (too expensive and subject to permafrost). Rather it will rest above grade secured by some 16 m deep pilings.
In 2010, Hydro Quebec confirmed that seven Nunavik communities have enough wind for a wind farms. The concept of capturing wind energy isn’t entirely new to the region; a small turbine operated in Kuujjuaq through the late 1990s and early 2000s. Experimental windmills have previously operated in some Nunavut communities with little success.
With its 4-turbine wind farm now operational, the Diavik Diamond Mine, located on an island in a subarctic lake called Lac de Gras, was the site of the world’s most northern large-scale wind-diesel hybrid power facility. This $31 million project was Rio Tinto’s first wind generation facility. It started production in September 2012.
Wind projects have been demonstrated in all three territories, with very mixed results. Yukon has had two turbines operating over the last 15 years at Haeckel Hill, near Whitehorse.These turbines have an installed capacity of 800 kW.
The large mining operators have delved into wind energy due to the extremely high cost of diesel fuel in the isolated far north. The economics becomes attractive when the cost and volumes of fuel are high.
The company is also looking at LNG as a power source to work in tandem with wind energy.