Parts of district show potential for wind power

In hopes of tapping into the fastest-growing source of energy on the planet, the Ministry of Natural Resources last week released a comprehensive study of the wind power potential within our province—and their findings brought a gust of possibly good news for parts of Rainy River District.
Although the wind atlas project revealed most of the potential wind power sites are, as was expected, situated on the shores of the Great Lakes, the Lake of the Woods region, including areas around Rainy River and Morson, could be fruitful locations, too.
Mike Belcher, the Peterborough-based MNR manager who oversaw the wind atlas research, admitted Tuesday he didn’t realize there was that much potential for wind power in that area.
“I didn’t know that there was much opportunity there,” he said.
According to the atlas, the wind-power potential near Rainy River and Morson ranges from “acceptable” to “very good,” and even “excellent” in a few spots, with wind speeds ranging from about 6.0 to just over 8.0 metres per second (m/s).
But most other portions of Rainy River District, including Fort Frances and the surrounding area, are rated as “marginal,” with most spots registering wind speeds of 6.0 m/s or less.
Any area with wind speeds of 6.5 m/s or more could be targeted for small developments, Belcher noted. For larger wind power developments, speeds of at least 7.5 m/s are needed.
Geoff Gillon, economic development officer with the Rainy River Future Development Corp., said while it’s been known for many years that the Great Lakes could be a good spot for harvesting wind energy, this study shows for the first time that there are possible wind turbine locations in our district.
“As far as I can tell, there may be some opportunities for wind power just north of Rainy River, adjacent to Lake of the Woods,” Gillon said Tuesday. “It definitely looks like we should do some further investigation.”
Gillon noted that while the potential here is no longer a secret, there’s no guarantee it is a viable option.
“It takes a lot of money to put wind turbines up,” he said, noting turbines cost at least $1 million each. “But it’s definitely an opportunity to look at.”
The MNR collected more than one billion pieces of data to build the wind power atlas—mapping the entire province.
And with an emphasis now being placed on providing more “green” energy, the study should be a handy tool for provincial government officials, potential developers, and community leaders alike.
“Ontario has excellent wind capacity located throughout the province,” Belcher said. “The wind atlas project is really a tool to help small and large scale development.”
In fact, Belcher noted the province recently called for proposals for new sources of renewable energy.
As well, construction crews broke ground last week on a $186-million wind farm on the north shore of Lake Erie that, when completed, is expected to power 32,000 homes.
That project is one of the successful bids from Ontario’s last round of renewable energy applications.
Whether a similar undertaking might one day become a reality in Rainy River District remains to be seen. But there certainly is potential to harvest wind power here—if a private investor is interested in forking out the cash to get the project off the ground.
In addition to the shores of the Great Lakes, the wind atlas project also pointed to the shores of Lake Nipigon, Hudson Bay, and James Bay as excellent wind power locations.
Belcher said the fact the Lake of the Woods area boasts some potential is most likely a result of the vastness of that body of water.
There are very few topographical or “roughness features,” such as tall stands of trees, to block the wind, he noted.