Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Saskatoon Green Energy Park and Feed-in-tariff part of global trend

A great article by Paul Hanley in The Star Phoenix, the local Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada newspaper was published this morning regarding the proposed Green Energy Park at the Saskatoon Landfill and the need for a feed-in-tariff in the province.

BY PAUL HANLEY, SPECIAL TO THE STARPHOENIX AUGUST 30, 2011

Saskatoon should get behind the city's plan to create a green energy park at the landfill site. The proposed renewable energy project has the potential to power more than 5,000 homes and achieve an annual reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of more than 115,000 tonnes. Not only is local green energy production good for the ecosphere, it can be a money maker too.

Europe has had some major successes with municipal energy production of this kind. The German village of Wildpoldsried, for example, produces 320 per cent more energy than it needs, generating $5.7 million in annual revenue from renewable energy sales to the national power grid.

According to an article in Bio-Cycle, the green initiative started in 1997 when the village council decided it should build new industries, keep initiatives local and bring in new revenue, all without creating debt. Fourteen years later, the community of 2,600 can boast a massive list of accomplishments that include nine new community buildings (including the school, gym and community hall) complete with solar panels, four biogas digesters with a fifth underway, seven windmills with two more on the way, 190 private households equipped with solar, a district heating network with 42 connections, three small hydro power plants, ecological flood control and a natural waste water system.

This is quite an accomplishment for a modest farming community with no local industries. Small businesses have now sprung up to sell and install technologies and provide services to the renewable energy installations, from solar panels and district heating to the anaerobic digesters and energy efficiency retrofits.

It's particularly successful, but Wildpoldsried is not unique. After investing $80 million over 10 years, the Danish island of Samsoe now produces enough energy to satisfy local needs and export 40 per cent of its energy to the mainland. Going 100 per cent renewable wasn't easy, but the results have paid off handsomely. Farmers on the island who are powering their facilities with wind turbines are seeing a six-to seven-year payback on those investments.

With 4,000 people, Samsoe has the highest per-capita concentration of nearly every kind of renewable energy on the planet. It has 11 onshore and 10 offshore turbines. Offshore wind alone produces 28,000 MWh of electricity per year, the equivalent of 690,000 gallons of oil. The island also uses its renewable biomass resource for heating, using three straw-fired plants and a 900kw wood chip boiler.

Wildpoldsried's mayor points out that the renewable approach requires strong support from the citizens and the village council. The model cannot be forced from only one side, he says. He spends a lot of time talking to visitors about how to motivate local politicians to start thinking differently. He shows them a best practice model in motion and many see the benefits immediately. Guests understand how well things can operate when you have the enthusiasm and conviction of the people behind it. Saskatoon take note.

It also helps to have national or provincial policies like a feed-in tariff in place to make it economic to promote novel power sources like wind and solar. Germany, which has recently decided to phase out nuclear power and go all out on renewable sources, has such a feed-in tariff. It is now moving to create a smart energy grid to better manage multiple renewable power sources. Saskatchewan take note.

Meanwhile, Japan has positioned itself as the next large growth market for renewable energy. Its upper chamber of parliament recently approved legislation that will create a national feed-in tariff. The new law is expected to bolster solar, wind and geothermal projects by mandating that utilities buy power from renewable sources at above-market rates.

Japan has decided to move from nuclear to the renewable option following the Fukushima nuclear plant meltdowns. Some 85 per cent of the population supports the immediate or gradual phase out of nuclear power, according to a recent poll.

Rather than back more nuclear research or clean coal, Saskatchewan would do well to look at a feed-in tariff and other policies to promote renewable options.

Read more: http://www.thestarphoenix.com/news/Local+green+energy+park+part+global+trend/5325695/story.html#ixzz1WWIMx100

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