Wind power turbines generate much bigger profits for Ontario’s farmers than for Quebec’s – typically two or three times bigger, an investigative report by CBC’s French-language service has found.
More wind farms are springing up in both Ontario and Quebec, as climbing energy prices and environmental concerns drive governments to invest in renewable, non-polluting sources of power.
Power companies must lease land for their wind turbines, and that can benefit rural landowners. But how much they benefit depends on their province.
Landowners in Quebec are typically offered an average royalty of about $3,000 for each turbine they allow on their land, while landowners in Ontario earn closer to $6,500 and as much as $10,000, La facture has learned.
The television program on CBC’s French-language service Radio-Canada undertook a month-long investigation into wind energy royalties.
Among those they spoke to was Marie-Louis Plourde, a farmer in Cacouna, near RiviÃ¨re-du-Loup on the GaspÃ© peninsula.
Plourde said he received a recent offer from the Toronto-based company SkyPower to put wind turbines on his land.
Plourde insisted on being paid $5,000 annually for each turbine – a sum that the company decided was too much.
Most contracts between land owners and power companies are private, so statistics about typical payments are difficult to find.
However, documents from Le Bureau d’audiences publiques sur l’environnement (BAPE), a Quebec provincial agency that consults with the public about environmental matters, showed Quebec farmers usually receive one per cent of earnings from the sale of electricity or approximately $3,000 annually.
Meanwhile, landowners on Wolfe Island near Kingston receive annual royalties of $10,000 for turbines a little more powerful than the ones in the GaspÃ©.
In Ontario, landowner royalties are 1.75 to 3 per cent of wind turbine revenues – two to three times more than in Quebec – according to the Ontario Sustainable Energy Association.
A variety of documents from Canadian Hydro Development Inc. and other sources show that Ontario wind projects such as Melanchton I on Georgian Bay will generate annual landowner royalties of $5,500 to $7,500 per turbine.
Land values cause price gap: power executive
Victor Pergat, vice-president of Northland Power, said the price gap is due to the difference in land values, which are higher in Ontario.
The company has wind farms in Saint-Ulric, Saint-LÃ©andre and Mont-Louis in Quebec’s GaspÃ© peninsula.
Gabriel Ste-Marie, an economist who studies the energy sector at the UniversitÃ© de QuÃ©bec Ã MontrÃ©al, said that shouldn’t make a difference. What should determine the price, he said in French, is the quality of the resource – that is, the wind.
In addition, Ste-Marie said, the payments made to farmers by the power companies are negligible compared with the revenues they make from selling the power generated by the wind farms, which can top $400,000 per turbine.
The companies could “could double, triple, even quadruple the investment, and it would scarcely make a difference,” he said in French.
Right now, the BAPE is trying to develop a mandatory framework for the negotiation of wind turbine installation between landowners and power companies.
Meanwhile, Hydro-QuÃ©bec, which has sought to buy wind power, has said it will not impose negotiation guidelines as it is counting on the market to regulate itself.
According to the Canadian Wind Energy Association, there are now over 400 megawatts of wind power capacity in Ontario and over 200 megawatts of wind power capacity in Quebec.
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