Renewable electricity seen filling half of grid

Survey by Ontario Power Authority cites projects in development Tyler Hamilton - April 22, 2009

Wind, sun, biomass and water power could provide up to half of the province's electricity supply over the next few years based on the number of green projects currently on the drawing board, according to results of an industry survey released yesterday by the Ontario Power Authority.

The province's electricity system planning agency found that there are 150 energy developers with 381 projects in various stages of development. Those projects, it calculated, represent 15,128 megawatts of renewable energy supply that has "near-term development potential."

"This level of interest highlights the significant need for new transmission and distribution infrastructure investments to bring potential new supply onto the grid," the agency said.

Most of the projects relate to wind. The survey found there were 164 wind-energy projects representing a total capacity of 13,382 megawatts. Wind, however, is an intermittent resource so only about a third of that capacity could be relied on for management of the grid.

Solar electricity projects numbered 121 and amounted to 1,213 megawatts, while 58 waterpower and 38 bio-energy projects together totalled 533 megawatts. The survey excluded about 1,400 megawatts of mostly undeveloped renewable-energy projects already approved under an earlier standard offer program.

"Those are extremely large numbers," said Richard King, an energy lawyer with Ogilvy Renault.

The survey was conducted after George Smitherman, minister of energy and infrastructure, directed the power authority last September to revisit its 20-year system plan with an eye to "raising the bar" on renewable energy.

As part of that directive the agency was asked to look at building new transmission and distribution infrastructure that could unlock more of the province's renewable-energy potential.

The survey, the agency said, helps to identify areas in the province where grid expansion can bring the biggest benefit.

Surprisingly, 69 per cent of total capacity identified – or 10,408 megawatts – is located in southern Ontario.

A recent report from the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, which regulates the continents bulk power system, said that adding huge amounts of wind, solar and other variable resources to the grid poses a huge challenge for planning authorities.

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