There's a new addition to the Inuvik skyline — a thin, 60 metre tower with a red light on top. It's testing the feasibility of wind power to supply the community's energy needs.

Yukon engineer J. P. Pinard installed the tower to do testing for the Aurora Research Institute in Inuvik. The work is being funded by the N.W.T. government.

"I think there is promise," Pinard said. "I see Inuvik as being the next big project for wind development."

"Once we get about a month's worth of winter data, I think I'm going to start seeing something there. And so far, I like what I'm seeing," he said.

Right now, Inuvik is powered by diesel and natural gas. It's costly for the community to transport enough fuel up the Dempster Highway.

Aurora Research Institute

The Aurora Research Institute has been testing and monitoring wind power in Inuvik for several years, but with a much smaller tower. (Philippe Morin)

Pinard said if wind proves feasible, Inuvik could install a wind turbine large enough to power up to 500 homes. He says wind turbines installed at Diavik mine are one inspiration. 

"A first turbine would be in the order of two or three megawatts, and I think there's room for growth there," he said.

Pinard said Whitehorse's Haeckel Hill wind farm was pioneering in its use of heated blades to prevent ice from building up. He hopes the technology can be included in the Inuvik project.