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Blowin’ In The Wind – Harnessing The Power Of Natural Resources To Create Renewable Energy

Dr. Kevin Pope, an expert in thermo-fluids and renewable energy in the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, and his team of graduate students have joined the global brigade by helping small, remote communities in Newfoundland and Labrador lessen their dependence on diesel-generated power by utilizing readily available natural resources to create renewable energy.

“This is one of the first projects in the world to integrate generation from wind, hydrogen and diesel in an isolated electricity system.” —Dr. Kevin Pope
Home court advantage
As an island in the Atlantic Ocean, positioned at the crossroads of the Labrador and Gulf currents, Newfoundland receives plenty of wind. In fact, the onshore gales of the province have the highest wind velocity of any in Canada. While this can be troubling for many other industries, it’s an advantage for the energy sector.

Dr. Pope and his engineering research team are assisting Nalcor Energy in its integration of wind turbines and hydrogen equipment with the existing diesel generators in Ramea, a small remote community on the south coast of the island. The turbines support the community’s electrical grid during high-load periods. When the load is low the wind energy is used to produce hydrogen gas that is then converted back to electricity through a hydrogen-fuelled generator. This helps support the community when wind speeds are too low to operate the turbines.

Searching for new solutions
High precipitation and ice accretion, unsteady wind conditions and limited accessibility are the main barriers the province faces in creating a reliable wind power development. Using data collected in their research, Dr. Pope and his team tackle these challenges by proposing new solutions for site selection, improving performance and energy storage technologies.

Nalcor Energy says the project at Ramea is one of the first in the world to integrate wind, hydrogen and diesel generation into one isolated electrical system. They’ve documented an average reduction in Ramea’s diesel fuel usage by approximately 18 per cent annually. That’s essentially 710 less tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions and a reduction of 190,000 litres of diesel every year.

Dr. Pope recognizes that the solutions he and his team create for Ramea could have a global impact if utilized in other similar regions throughout the world. This capacity to make an impact is the motivation that drives the team to continually overcome the challenges they face in their work.