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Is There a Future for Nuclear Power? Wind and Emission Reduction Targets in Fossil-Fuel Alberta

Gerrit van Kooten, Jun Duan and Rachel Lynch

PLOS ONE, 2016, vol. 11, issue 11, 1-14

Abstract: This paper explores the viability of relying on wind power to replace upwards of 60% of electricity generation in Alberta that would be lost if coal-fired generation is phased out. Using hourly wind data from 17 locations across Alberta, we are able to simulate the potential wind power output available to the Alberta grid when modern, 3.5 MW-capacity wind turbines are spread across the province. Using wind regimes for the years 2006 through 2015, we find that available wind power is less than 60% of installed capacity 98% of the time, and below 30% of capacity 74% of the time. There is only a small amount of correlation between wind speeds at different locations, but yet it remains necessary to rely on fossil fuel generation. Then, based on the results from a grid allocation model, we find that CO2 emissions can be reduced by about 30%, but only through a combination of investment in wind energy and reliance on purchases of hydropower from British Columbia. Only if nuclear energy is permitted into the generation mix would Alberta be able to meet its CO2-emissions reduction target in the electricity sector. With nuclear power, emissions can be reduced by upwards of 85%.

Date: 2016
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DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0165822

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