Diavik’s diamond mines may succeed where a government pilot project in alternative energy failed 30 years ago.
Low wind speeds and immature technology are the reasons that an NWT government pilot project examining wind turbines as alternative energy source in the high Arctic failed in the 1980s, but a similar project currently underway at Diavik Mine will use wind power to fuel nine per cent of the mine’s power needs once installation of four wind turbines is completed later this year.
Diavik plans to reduce its diesel consumption by four million litres per year with the 2.3 MW Enercon wind turbines.
Louie Azzolini, executive director of Arctic Energy Alliance, said wind farm viability depends on scale. The Northwest Territories faces an uphill battle in using wind as an alternative energy source, he said.
“Wind turbines need wind, obviously. The research conducted so far in terms of looking at the wind speeds in the Northwest Territories suggest that there isn’t enough wind at sustained speeds to make it viable,” Azzolini told The Journal. “Now, that’s mostly for communities below the treeline.”
Above the treeline, it may be a different story. Andrew Stewart, manager of business development at NT Energy Corp. told The Journal wind turbines need consistent winds above six km/h to be viable. He noted NT Energy has not been a leader in wind energy, but that the organization periodically worked with Environment and Natural Resources (ENR) on wind power projects.
Doug Ashbury, a communications advisor with Diavik, which is owned by Rio Tinto and Harry Winston Diamonds, confirmed components for the four wind turbines arrived over the winter and that foundation work has commenced. Diavik expects the wind farm to be fully operational and supplying energy to the mine by winter.