High hopes for wind die down

St. Joseph turbine project delayed, nine others shelved


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Manitoba's green-energy projects are sucking wind compared to other provinces and companies that develop and service wind farms are starting to take their business elsewhere.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 14/11/2009 (4831 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Manitoba’s green-energy projects are sucking wind compared to other provinces and companies that develop and service wind farms are starting to take their business elsewhere.

While Manitoba’s newest wind farm, a 300-megawatt project near St. Joseph, is mired in delays and nine more proposed projects have been shelved, Ontario has launched a radical program aimed at fast-tracking turbines.

"Things are kind of at a sad standstill in Manitoba," said Justin Rangooni, a policy expert at the Canadian Wind Energy Association. "There’s a lot of frustration. Developers are simply giving up."

TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Only 99 megawatts of wind power have hit the grid in Manitoba, all from the St. Leon wind farm that opened four years ago.

Total Wind Canada Inc., an international wind farm construction and maintenance company, opened an office in Morden, hoping to work on the St. Joseph wind farm and others built after it.

Instead, sales and managing director Michelle Purkess is sending her staff to work and train on wind projects in Denmark, Hungary and Poland, even though Manitoba has some of the best wind on the continent.

"We put our company here hoping St. Joseph would be up and running, but it’s been three years," said Purkess. "What is it that’s holding us back in Manitoba while every other province is going heavy and hard?"

The NDP government has promised to install 1,000 megawatts of wind power by 2015. So far, only 99 megawatts have hit the grid, all from the St. Leon wind farm that opened four years ago.

The next wind farm, in nearby St. Joseph, was originally slated to be built by Babcock & Brown. It’s more than a year late and mired in financial uncertainty after the Australian mega-firm imploded and sold its wind division to Pattern Energy. A year after former premier Gary Doer touted the project at a press conference, Manitoba Hydro still hasn’t signed a formal power purchase agreement to build the St. Joseph wind farm. The project just got its environmental licence last month, though, and Finance Minister Rosann Wowchuk said she’s confident it’s a go.

Meanwhile, there are nine wind farms totalling nearly 1,100 megawatts that have been shelved, even though they got their environmental licences and landowner approvals years ago and are almost shovel ready.

Hydro has traditionally been no fan of wind power — saying it’s inconsistent, tricky to put on the grid and costs more than water power generated from dams built a generation ago.

That’s why critics say it takes an unequivocal signal from government — a mandate, legislation, a ministerial order — to force the Crown power company to get serious about wind. The Manitoba government has relied more on backroom cajoling to get Hydro to move on key issues.

"There’s frustration with the process — what criteria they’re looking for, what price Hydro is willing to pay," said Tory MLA Cliff Cullen, the party’s Hydro critic. "What we need is a framework to provide a catalyst for development."

Ontario has a new green-energy policy called a feed-in tariff that threatens to suck all the wind out of Manitoba. It’s a guaranteed, set price — 13.5 cents per kilowatt hour — the province of Ontario will pay for wind power. Any company that can link to the grid, get environmental approvals and a contract with the power company will earn that price, a healthy one.

The first round of proposals are due at the end of the month, and Rangooni said Ontario could see hundreds of megawatts of power under construction in very short order.

Ontario has also dramatically streamlined the municipal and environmental licensing and approval process, creating a kind of one-stop-shop system that takes about six months, start to finish.

The open-door system stands in stark contrast to Manitoba, where companies spend years and big money developing bids, only to get rejected during Manitoba Hydro’s plodding Request For Proposal (RFP) process.

But Wowchuk, who is in charge of Manitoba Hydro, said it’s not fair to compare Manitoba to Ontario, since our province already relies almost exclusively on renewable energy but Ontario is powered largely by dirty coal.

And, she said, Manitoba is blessed with cheap power, meaning ratepayers would take a hit if the province threw open its doors to wind power like Ontario has done.



Gone with the wind — projects in limbo

Dominion City Wind Energy Project:

Proposed by Ontario-based Aim PowerGen Corp., the project would see 66 turbines located in the Rural Municipality of Franklin.

99 megawatts, approved in 2007

Oakland Wind Energy Project:

Also by Aim PowerGen, the project would see 66 turbines installed just south of Brandon.

99 megawatts, approved in 2007

Yellowhead Wind Energy Project:

Proposed by Greenwing Energy Development, the same company that built the St. Leon wind farm, this one would have between 50 and 70 wind turbines pumping near Minnedosa.

99 megawatts, approved in 2007

Reston Wind Energy Project:

Also by Greenwing, between 40 and 70 turbines were slated to go up north of Melita.

99 megawatts, approved in 2007

Mountain Winds Energy Project:

PPM Energy, now part of Portland-based Iberdrola Renewables, wants to build 200 turbines near Treherne.

300 megawatts, approved in 2007

Dacotah Wind Energy Project:

Manitoba-based Sequoia Energy Inc. wants to build a wind farm near Elie, just west of Winnipeg.

99 megawatts, approved in 2006

Meridan Wind Energy Project:

Also by Sequoia, this one would see as many as 70 turbines near Altona.

99 megawatts, approved 2007

Killarney Wind Energy Project:

Also by Sequoia, this one would see up to 70 wind turbines installed south of Killarney.

99 megawatts, approved in 2006

Pembina Hills Wind Energy Project:

Sequoia and Bison Wind want to install as many as 70 turbines northwest of Morden near Deerwood.

99 megawatts, approved in 2006

— Source: Manitoba Conservation Environmental Assessment and Licensing Branch

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