The developer of a multimillion-dollar wind farm in western P.E.I. says he’s not looking for concessions from the province.
John Douglas, president and CEO of Ventus Energy, says he is simply looking for an extension to an agreement already signed with the P.E.I. government.
He said he was alarmed by comments made by Environment Minister George Webster on Thursday.
As first reported by The Guardian, the $230-million wind farm near O’Leary is in jeopardy.
The P.E.I. government claims 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.
But Douglas they are simply looking for the new Liberal administration to honour a deal signed by the previous Conservative administration last November.
“These concessions, or whatever they are calling them, are matters that were offered to us by the previous government,” Douglas said in an exclusive interview with The Guardian.
“We’re just trying to finalize negotiations that started over a year ago by the previous government.”
Douglas said he does not want to negotiate in the media.
“We’re negotiating in good faith.”
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 earlier interview.
“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.”
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.
Ventus is now receiving benefits from the so-called green credits attached to that energy because the previous Conservative administration agreed to hand over those credits to Ventus. It wants to extend that agreement for the next 20 years.
But the province says those credits, and the cash that goes along with the sale of those credits, belong to the province.
About a dozen West Prince landowners held a meeting with Webster and Provincial Treasurer Wes Sheridan Wednesday afternoon in Charlottetown.
The landowners stand to lose up to 20 years of income because they have leased their land for the wind turbines to Ventus.
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.
Douglas called that “disingenuous.”
“Landowners, obviously, in a wind farm are huge stakeholders. We haven’t asked them to do anything on our behalf.”
Both Webster and Douglas say negotiations are still ongoing and both sides hope to reach an agreement. A face-to-face meeting is being planned soon.
“We don’t want to lose (this deal) but we can’t give away the farm either,” said Webster.
Douglas added that the deal has to make sense for his company for it to proceed.
“The project’s got to make sense economically and if it doesn’t, then it doesn’t make sense.”
By Wayne Thibodeau
24 August 2007
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