Life in the Electric Age

Innovative business models and innovative technology are both necessary to usher in the electric age. Imagine the gigawatt-hours we’ll need just to power the commuter miles for millions of new electric cars. But along with new sources of electricity, we can increase the supply of electricity from existing sources by retrofitting our grid to the lighter and far more energy efficient touch of new “HVDC light” electricity transmission cables! This technology allows 1.0+ gigawatt transmission cables to be buried underground, without magnetic fields. These super efficient cables – that only lose about 1% of energy for every four-hundred kilometers – are far less costly than the current grid that uses – in general – 0.5 gigawatt AC transmission lines that require elevation via expensive transmission towers, with on average 30% energy loss on transmission.

Wind farms proposed for Northern Vancouver.
(Image: Sea Breeze Power Inc.)

Sea Breeze Power Corp. is involved in joint ventures and directly in projects that are critical to entering the electric age. These include projects such as the Juan de Fuca cable – a 0.5 gigawatt DC cable transmitting electricity from Southern Vancouver to Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, and the West Coast Cable, a 650 mile long, 1.6 gigawatt DC cable to lay on the seabed from the Colombia River to the San Francisco Bay.

Sea Breeze is also involved in wind power proposals, hoping to utilize the stable winds that batter the treeless highlands of northern Vancouver island. Initially 100 megawatts of capacity are proposed on about a dozen sites in northern Vancouver (see map). Sea Breeze is also participating in projects to develop “run of river” green hydroelectric turbines in southern British Colombia – ranging from 10 to 25 megawatts in output per station.

Even in northern Vancouver Island, where reliable winds from the ocean blow year-round, there is still significant daily and seasonal variation of harvestable wind power. British Colombia has an even more profound seasonal variation in the potential for run-of-river hydro-electric power, where a 24 hour capacity occurs during spring snow melt, and zero capacity ensues during late summer. But also in British Colombia there is huge existing capacity power from hydroelectric plants that utilize multi-year water storage, making load balancing easy. Whenever wind or seasonal hydroelectric power is abundant, the deep reservoir-fed hydroelectric stations can shut down another turbine. As the President of Sea Breeze, Paul Manson put it, “the size and depth of our reservoirs allows us multi-year load balancing.”

Sea Breeze Power Company is in the right place at the right time – their region has deep reservoir hydro-electric capacity, which means they can load-balance significant new sources of sporadic power – such as wind and run-of-river hydro which British Colombia has in abundance. At $.10 per kilowatt-hour, operating continuously, a 1.5 gigawatt high-voltage direct current cable from Vancouver to California would deliver 11.8 billion kilowatt-hours per year – at $.10 per kilowatt-hour that is about 1.2 billion dollars per year.

Industry costs for wind farms are about $2.5 to 3.0 million per megawatt output – for run-of-river hydroelectric it is about 3.0 to 4.0 million. A lot of this cost is for the permits, especially with the greener “run-of-river” hydroelectric plants, where surplus water is diverted into a collection pond and a pipe feeding a turbine generator. These 10-25 megawatt turbines are a significant source of electricity in British Colombia.

Having the ability to stop the turbines on the major reservoirs is British Colombia’s greatest asset as an energy exporter. ‘When you can load balance intermittant wind and runoff dependent power sources with literally gigawatt-years of water behind the dam, you don’t need new storage – you have storage. All in all, however, the biggest story here is Sea Breeze’s proposals to install high-voltage direct current (HVDC) using the latest technologies to allow Vancouver to more cost-effectively increase electricity exports. Today’s next generation “HVDC light” technology – underground high-voltage cables that have no magnetic field, deliver twice the throughput, and have far less transmission losses – represents a fundamental retrofit of our electric power grid that should be tested more.

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