When are we going to drop diesel in the North?

raglan-mine-wind-turbine-in-quebecNatural Resources Canada estimates there are more than 300 isolated communities in the North: All use Diesel. CBC News says a University of Waterloo study shows that the introduction of solar and wind is “not only possible and environmentally beneficial, but it will also mean big savings.”

Can we replace diesel?

Solar and wind power for these remote sites make a lot of sense. Solar would work well for the summer months especially when there’s 24-hour daylight. Wind, is also available in summer, but would be the main renewable source for the dark winter days. Due to the variability of both systems, diesel would still have to be the backup; however, the study predicted that its use could be decreased by up to 50 percent in some communities.

Will wind turbines work in the North?

Critics have questioned the suitability of wind turbines operating in frigid weather, and there have been instances where some wind turbines weren’t suitable for Northern conditions. However, more recent research, design, and construction have produced wind turbines that have demonstrated efficient and dependable operation in the North. Northern Power Systems from Vermont has designed a wind turbine to operate at the South Pole.

What are renewables’ advantages?

Here are some reasons to switch to renewables:

  • Cost savings—The University of Waterloo study predicts savings of up to 10 percent over a 10-year period.
  • Reduced use of diesel fuel— This reduction decreases harmful emissions and green house gas production.
  • Reliability of supply—The power source is within the community with diesel only as a backup.
  • Unreliable transportation for diesel—Climate change is melting the permafrost and shortening the season for ice roads. Both of these issues increase disruptions to ground transportation and drive up the cost of diesel. Flying the fuel in is much too expensive to be workable.
  • Stable costs for planning—As the transportation and supply of diesel is increasingly disrupted by the consequences of climate change, the costs will continually be increasing. One the other hand, once the renewables are installed at a known cost, the maintenance costs will be the only ongoing cost.
  • Rallying point for communities– Coming together to adapt and carry out a plan for renewables can be a unifying force in remote communities. Gwen Holdman, Director of Energy Research at the University of Alaska, has been involved with the introduction of renewables into Alaskan communities.  Her experience there showed her that the movement “ had to be community driven, and it was only after communities rallied that the government implemented a renewable energy fund.”
How local control made it happen

In Alaska, local control in some cases led to a microgrid. The experience there showed each community, in coming together, looked at the local resources for renewables such as wind solar, geothermal, and tidal or river power along with diesel as a backup. The development of a microgrid allowed the integration of these sources into a workable electricity source for the community.

Others do it—why not Canada?

“Don’t be afraid,” says Mariia Iakovleva, a researcher with experience in renewable energy technologies in Siberia. She explains that many communities there have been using renewables (wind and solar) for the last ten years.

What’s Canada afraid of?

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