With all the talk of $4-billion of new wind turbine investment in Saskatchewan between now and 2030 and with record global investment in wind last year, it's easy to forget how it all started in Saskatchewan.  

 

Installation in 1978, at the Agriculture Canada Research Station near Swift Current, of Saskatchewan's first wind turbine: a 50 kW, 2-bladed Darrieus VAWT  
Source: Mike Sulatisky of SRC

There were numerous wind turbines providing power to farms prior to rural electrification, however the first grid-connected wind turbine in the province was installed 37 years ago in 1977-78 at the Agriculture Canada Research Station just outside of Swift Current.

It was a Research and Development project between SaskPower, the National Research Council and Agriculture Canada. It operated from 1978 to 1988 when it was sold to someone in Manitoba (sorry - information after that is lost in the sands of time).

The turbine was a two-bladed Darrieus-style Vertical Axis Wind Turbine (VAWT) which was manufactured by DAF-Indal Limited of Mississauga, Ontario. It was 27 metres tall and had a rated power of 50 kilowatts. When operating normally it would produce enough electricity to meet the needs of about five average Saskatchewan households. It had a 3-phase induction generator and a 25 kilovolt grid connection.

The VAWT style of turbine usually, but not always, had the main rotor shaft vertical to the ground - as shown in the above photo - and hence transverse to the wind. The main components were located at the base of the turbine which means that the generator and gearbox are located close to the ground. As a result the entire array is lighter than a Horizontal Axis Wind Turbine (HAWT) and service and repair is also easier. VAWTs do not need to be pointed into the wind, which also removes the need for wind-sensing and orientation mechanisms. 

Source: SaskPower.  
Horizontal Axis Wind Turbines (HAWTs) at SaskPower's Centennial Wind Facility in Southern Saskatchewan. The entire facility has a net capacity of 150 megawatts and was built in 2006. Each turbine is 80 metres tall and has a capacity of 1.8 megawatts i.e. 36 times greater than the 1978 VAWT outside of Swift Current. 

Despite these conceptual advantages the VAWT fell out of favor for a variety of reasons. Effectively all of the $110-billion invested globally in wind in 2015 was in HAWTs - in other words the design shown in the picture to the left.  

There are 221 operating wind turbines in Saskatchewan today every one of which is a HAWT. Together they generate enough electricity to meet the needs of 80,000 average Saskatchewan households.  

Five households to 80,000: we've come a long way in 37 years!

 

Lux Turbine Installation, Saskatoon - 2013. Source: R Bitner photo from Western Development Museum web site.

BTW: Just outside of Saskatoon there is a research project with a Lux VAWT but only limited information is available - scroll half-way down this link for as much as there is.



FYI (for the data hounds out there): much of the information contained in this article was taken from reports prepared for Energy, Mines and Resources Canada by TES Limited of Ottawa. Mike Sulatisky, of the Saskatchewan Research Council, generously assisted for which many thanks!