If you want a glimpse of this province's energy future, drive the
winding country roads to its eastern tip, take a left at the sign
for the village of Elmira, and follow the red dirt track to the
You can't miss it.
Ten wind turbines stand along the trail, each 26 stories tall,
with blades as long as 125 feet. When workers finish the last one
this month, the new Eastern Kings Wind Farm will generate 30
megawatts of electricity - 7.5 percent of the province's power - by
harnessing the strong winds that buffet the island's northern shore.
But more than an isolated project, the wind farm is part of an
ambitious plan to enable Prince Edward Island (PEI) - which has no
significant coal, petroleum, natural gas, or hydro resources - to
meet most of its electricity and 30 percent of its total energy
needs from its own renewable resources by 2016. If successful,
government officials say, this remote rural province will find
itself at the cutting edge of the world's fastest growing energy
"Right now we have to bring almost all of our energy in from off-
island at great expense" - $440 million a year (US$384 million and
11 percent of GDP), says Jamie Ballem, minister of environment and
energy. "If we can produce a third of that right here from renewable
sources that's going to help the local economy and the environment."
In addition to the Eastern Kings project, PEI's government is
backing the creation of a hydrogen-powered village as well as
expansions to existing wind farms on the northwestern tip of the
island. Private companies, meanwhile, are building plants to produce
ethanol from locally grown sugar beets and residential heat from
forestry and farming waste. Hydrogen-powered buses and boats may
follow, whisking passengers around the island with fuel cells
charged by wind-power.
A province known for lobster, potatoes, and low-key vacations,
PEI may seem an unlikely venue for an energy revolution. It's a tiny
place, an island the size of Delaware, with fewer people than
Arlington, Va., or Eugene, Ore.
But PEI's small size is exactly what makes it appealing for the
emerging renewable-energy industry to conduct pilot projects, says
Mr. Ballem. "If you're developing a new technology, we're able to
provide something nobody else can: a self-contained province where,
with two days notice, I can get you a meeting with the premier or
the head of the university," he says. "We're small enough to be
affordable and big enough to be commercial."
Energy policy analyst Scott Sklar of the Stella Group in
Washington agrees. "Clean energy industries are expanding at about
30 percent a year, and they're looking for places to put down
investments.... In PEI, they've got an excellent renewable resource
base, a small population, and a great willingness to move boldly.
There's no doubt that that all plays in their favor."
The electricity-generating potential of the island's greatest
energy resource - the wind - was recognized decades ago, and in 1980
Canada built its national wind test center on the island's
northwestern tip. …