Hydro-Quebec is calling for bids from the private sector to supply 2,000 megawatts of wind power to its distribution grid – equal to James Bay’s LG -4 unit – in September and believes it will get a massive response, president Thierry Vandal said yesterday.
It will be the second call for bids from qualified developers and at 2,000MW it is the largest- ever by any utility, he said after a Canadian Club of Montreal speech. The first call for bids in 2004 sought 1,000MW – and 4,000MW was offered.
Hydro-Quebec several years ago decided to leave wind turbine development to the private sector, while saying it should be developed alongside hydro power. But the utility must pay a purchase price that encourages the private sector to invest and make a decent return or it won’t get offers.
The investment needed to develop 2,000MW of wind power has been estimated at about $3 billion as a minimum.
The first round will double Quebec’s wind power resources from the present total of about 500 MW, mostly in the Lower St. Lawrence region, by 2010. Quebec will still lag most other provinces. But times have changed since the first call went out in 2004, said Vandal.
Wind-turbine technology has improved and averages 35-per-cent efficiency (when there’s enough wind to produce power), up from 20 per cent a decade ago. But steel and other material costs have soared. Local protests against wind farms have proliferated and controversy has spiralled.
The new wind power has to be available at a price of about 5 cents per kilowatt hour. Hydro-Quebec will look at the prices offered by the bidders and their projects and take about two months to complete the selection process.
“We’re optimistic there’ll be strong interest from wind-power developers at good prices,” said Vandal. “But each project accepted must still go through environmental review. Quebec can’t become a wind powerhouse overnight.”
By Robert Gibbens
1 May 2007
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