A $230-million wind farm near O’Leary could be in jeopardy.
The P.E.I. government says Ventus Energy, which is developing the 55 wind turbines, is seeking concessions to a four-year deal it signed last year – concessions the province says are unacceptable.
The two sides are still talking, but Environment Minister George Webster said he has no intention of agreeing to a deal which he says gives the Island’s resources away. He described those resources as P.E.I.’s “oil and gas’’ and added the concessions being asked for by Ventus would cost the Island “significantly.’’
He would not disclose exact figures.
“It’s extremely important that a reasonable return be established to this province because it is somewhat precedent setting,’’ Webster said in an interview with The Guardian.
“In four or five years time we could have several other wind farms developed in Prince Edward Island. If we ended up signing a deal that really isn’t good for all Islanders, it could have ramifications on further discussions down the road. We know we have a resource in our very good wind regime here in P.E.I. and we want to have a reasonable return for all Islanders over the next decade or so.’’
Eleven huge turbines currently make up the West Cape wind farm, located near O’Leary.
The second phase would see 44 additional wind turbines added over the next two years, bringing the total number of wind turbines to 55.
In May, Ventus started selling the power it is generating from the P.E.I. wind farm into the U.S.
John Douglas, president and CEO of Ventus Energy, could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
About a dozen West Prince landowners held a meeting with Webster and Provincial Treasurer Wes Sheridan Wednesday afternoon in Charlottetown.
Residents asked for the closed-door meeting, held at the Jones Building in Charlottetown, because they are fearful the wind farm could be in jeopardy.
The landowners stand to lose up to 20 years of income because they have leased their land for the wind turbines, to Ventus.
None of the residents would talk to The Guardian following the meeting.
But the provincial treasurer said he’s fearful the landowners are being used as pawns by the private developer in an effort to get concessions from the province.
Sheridan said these negotiations should be going on behind closed doors and not through the residents or the media.
“I would like (Ventus) to keep from using their landowners up there as pawns in this whole issue,” Sheridan said.
The local MLA said area residents are concerned.
Robert Henderson, the MLA for O’Leary-Inverness, which is where the wind farm is located, said he had a heated, three-hour meeting with landowners on Monday night. He arranged for the meeting with the Environment minister and the provincial treasurer Wednesday.
“This is a big project for western P.E.I.,” he said.
In November 2006, the former Conservative administration signed a four-year deal with Ventus.
It is not known why Ventus is now looking for a 20-year deal and new concessions from the province. It may have something to do with an ownership change at Ventus.
In July, SUEZ Energy North America purchased Ventus in a blockbuster deal worth $124 million.
Webster said he’s been in negotiations with Ventus for three weeks. He’s hopeful a deal can be reached.
“We don’t want to lose (this deal) but we can’t give away the farm either.”
Webster said the province has experience with the provincially owned wind farms in North Cape and East Point and he said they know how valuable green credits and wind energy is in the marketplace.
“We need a better deal than what is on the table at the moment,” he said.
“It was Ventus that came to us with a proposal and said ‘we want to give you less here, and less here’.”
By Wayne Thibodeau
23 August 2007
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