Through the years the northern territorial energy utilities have experimented with wind power. But it was not until 2012, that a large wind farm was built—by a mining company! Rio Tinto’s Diavik Diamond mine took the plunge and invested $31 M in the north’s first wind farm.
The Diavik Diamond Mine, located on an island in a subarctic lake called Lac de Gras, is the site of the world’s most northern large-scale wind-diesel hybrid power facility. The wind farm, which began delivering power to the mine’s grid on 28 September 2012, is projected to lower the mine’s annual power-related diesel fuel requirement by 10 per cent and reduce its carbon footprint by six per cent. Key facts on the wind farm:
- The wind farm will save approximately five million litre reduction in use of diesel per annum, which is equal to 100 fuel tanker truckload equivalent per annum
- Four Enercon E70 generators, made in Germany
- Gearless direct-drive design operating to -40°C
- Total installed and demonstrated capacity: 9.2MW
- 17GWh annual production
8 year estimated payback
- Tower hub height: 64m
- Turbine rotor diameter: 71m
- Total turbine height: 100m
Meanwhile, the NWT has no wind energy in its power generating operations. In Yukon, Yukon Energy has two wind turbines located on Haeckel Hill near Whitehorse that have the combined capacity of producing 0.8 megawatts of power. The smaller of the two turbines is a 0.15 megawatt unit manufactured by Bonus Energy that was installed in July 1993. The larger turbine, a Vestas V47-660, was erected in the fall of 2000. The Vestas can produce 0.66 megawatts of power. Together, these turbines have the capability of providing clean, renewable energy to 150 homes.
In Nunavut, windmill projects in Kugluktuk, Cambridge Bay and Rankin Inlet ended up producing little energy and costing a lot of money. The windmill in Rankin Inlet is still operational while the other two ceased a decade ago. Rankin Inlet’s windmill will produce about 152,000 kilowatt-hours per year - enough for about 40 houses.
The extremely high cost of fuel and the topography of the mine site made the economics of wind power attractive to Diavik. It must have taken some moxy to push the project within the Rio Tinto organization. The project seems to be paying dividends.