08 August 2011

The truth is out there…Nalcor version

The truth is out there.

You just really have to read Nalcor’s stuff really carefully to find it.

Take, for example, a recent letter in the Telegram by Greg Jones,  Nalcor’s manager of business development:.

In a nutshell, the option of wind energy storage didn’t pass Nalcor’s initial test based on the most basic of screening criteria, specifically commercial availability.

The technology is simply not there to make it commercially viable.

Another consideration is the average service life comparison of generating assets: hydro plants (about 100 years), thermal plants (typically 30 years), wind turbines (average 25 years) and fuel cell stacks (these are a major

part of a wind energy-to-hydrogen-to-electricity storage system and have a life of five to 10 years depending on design).

You can check out Nalcor’s senior management blog for more information but what you’ll get is more of the same:  carefully word rationalisations for conclusions already reached. 

To make matters much worse, the posts don’t link to any concrete information anywhere else – even to other posts on the same blog on the same topic – that would back up the Nalcor claims.

Very bad sign.

Big zero on the credibility meter.

But just for the sake of curiosity, read Jones’ short bit in the Telly carefully, though. 

Very carefully.

More carefully than most people would actually read it. 

Do the same with the posts on the Nalcor blog.

What you’ll quickly realise is that the wind energy option Jones is talking about is one carefully constructed to fail the conditions Nalcor has selected to justify its pet debt project.  It’s called situating the estimate, as opposed to estimating the situation.

Another phrase for it is “playing with words.”

Jones is not talking about wind power generally.  he’s speaking very specifically about wind power in a system where the island remains cut off from the rest of North America.  So when he says wind couldn’t get beyond the basic requirements, he is really talking about a version of wind power that is set up to fail.

Nalcor doesn’t talk about wind power with an interconnection to Nova Scotia that would allow surplus power from wind and hydro to be sold off to the export market when it isn’t needed on the island. That would likely beat Muskrat on every count, by miles, including cost to consumers.

There’s more.  Scroll back to the bit where Jones says that the “technology is simply not there”.  He’s referring to storing up the electricity wind would generate when the grid doesn’t need it.

The technology to deal with surplus is there. it’s the interconnection to Nova Scotia.

Wind should be part of the province’s energy future and Nalcor’s plans for today.  The problem is that Nalcor doesn’t want wind energy since it would interfere with its Muskrat Falls megadebt project.

So they carefully construct scenarios in which they claim their debt monster is the only solution.

Now Nalcor does put a little star beside its assumptions sometimes. Take this July 6 post attributed to vice president Gil Bennett in which he gives the reasons why Nalcor doesn’t want to develop wind energy for Newfoundland and Labrador:

2) The island of Newfoundland is an isolated grid. When we have surplus wind generation, we can't export to our neighbours, like Denmark or other European countries can; we also can't import power to our province when we have a shortage of wind generation.

A couple of paragraphs later he adds the asterisk:

The Labrador-Island Transmission Link and the Maritime Link will resolve these issues in the future by providing connections to the rest of North America.

And there you have it.

Connect the island to the mainland – even via the Maritime link alone – and the Nalcor objection to wind energy evaporates along with the rest of its rationalisations against any alternative to forcing consumers to carry the costs of its multi-billion dollar boondoggle.

Interestingly enough what the Nalcor gang also don’t tell you is that right now, today, their beloved hydro has a storage problem.  Nalcor has more generating capacity on the island than it has demand.

In fact, they’ve got so much surplus that their storage system  - the ponds and reservoirs of central and western Newfoundland – can’t store all of it.  As a result, they issued a news release on August 4 warning travellers that they will likely be dumping water throughout their hydro system on the island.

What a waste.

If only there was some way to ensure that there was some way to prevent that…

Like say a line to Nova Scotia, currently estimated to cost less than $2.0 billion. That’s less than one third of Nalcor’s current estimated cost for Muskrat, the supposed lowest cost means to meet the province’s energy needs.

Then Nova Scotians could displace all that dirty and expensive thermal power and buy some of our hydro and maybe even some newly installed wind power. 

The hydro has all been bought and paid for.   Nalcor wouldn’t have to sell that electricity at a huge discount as they will be doing with Muskrat power, if it gets built.  In fact, Nalcor could sell their surplus power today at current market prices in Nova Scotia and make a tidy profit.

The truth is out there. You just have to read Nalcor material; awfully carefully to find it.

- srbp -