Arenas still waiting to hit wind energy jackpot

Eric McCarthy
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ALBERTON -- Kensington Community Gardens manager Robert Wood recalls how four arenas were seen as having won the lottery three years ago when they were picked to participate in a wind energy demonstration project.

“We were the lucky ones to try it out first, and then they were going to bring more online as funding became available,” he recalled the scenario.

The arenas in Kensington, Murray River, Crapaud and Alberton each received federal and provincial funding covering all but $70,000 of the $250,000 it would cost to purchase wind turbines and install them on their properties. Arenas had to borrow money to cover their share, banking on being able to pay off their loans through energy savings.

That’s not how it’s turning out.

While Wood says the arena is near the break-even point in terms of energy savings and loan payments, Alan Rennie, chair of Alberton’s Jacques Cartier Arena Operating Committee, says they are losing money on the deal.

In the nearly two years since the Seaforth wind turbine on the arena property has been in production, he said it has generated about $12,000 in energy production. Meanwhile, the arena has been making loan, interest and insurance payments on the equipment of $12,500 a year for nearly three years.

“We were hoping for $18,000 a year of electricity generation,” he said. That would have given the arena savings of $5,500 per year while the loan was being paid off.

“We would have been happy with that,” Rennie said. “We would have been happy making our payments and paying for the thing in seven years and (then) having all of that money.”

The board, he acknowledges, is not happy about losing money on the deal.

Both Wood and Rennie expressed concern that their turbines are at the half-way point of their five-year warranty. They’re fearful losses will grow once responsibility for maintenance and repair shifts to the arenas.

“All we’re doing is we’re making, or coming close enough to pay, our loan payments,” Wood said. “After five years, if anything goes wrong, then you could be in trouble.”

“We thought we were doing good,” Rennie said in describing his committee’s reaction when the Jacques Cartier Arena was selected to participate in the project.

Projections on energy savings were supplied by the Wind Energy Institute of Canada (WEICan) at North Cape, based on historical wind data and the turbines’ potential. WEICan officials did not return messages left Thursday on their voicemail.

Rennie said new data on wind production is currently being gathered to determine whether wind velocity is the reason for the lower than anticipated performance of the turbines.

All four turbines have been out of production since January 7 while the manufacturer looks into data from a mainland unit that malfunctioned.

Rennie said the arena’s turbine comes up for discussion regularly at operating committee meetings and the data on the display panel in the arena’s entry way is a source of conversation by many people attending events at the arena.

 

Organizations: Jacques Cartier Arena Operating Committee, WEICan, Wind Energy Institute of Canada

Geographic location: Kensington, Murray River, Jacques Cartier North Cape

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