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Wind farm on horizon

The small, independent renewable energy company developing a 99-megawatt wind farm in Shuniah has been bought by a larger firm based in France.

Suez Energy International is able to provide the $230-million construction cost for the wind farm, to be located largely on municipal lands north of Highway 11/17, Zohrab Mawani, a Ventus representative who has been working on the Lakehead Wind Farm, said Tuesday.

Ventus, now part of Suez Renewable Energy North America, secured a 99-megawatt contract with the provincial government in April, and will be selling power into Ontario‘s grid.

“Canada‘s (wind power) market is growing by leaps and bounds,” Mawani said during a presentation to Shuniah council.

Larger international firms have been looking to buy smaller companies as a way to get into the Canadian market, and when Suez came knocking on Ventus‘s door, Ventus decided it was a sound alternative to seeking $230 million in start-up funding from banks, he said.

For a small company, banks‘ and lenders‘ reporting and information requirements are onerous, he said.

Suez has created a budget for Ventus to build four wind farms in two years, he said, adding that the small Toronto firm must now go through an approval process with Suez for projects.

The acquisition by Suez went through in October, and that process pushed construction back a bit, he said.

Ventus had hoped to begin work on the farm in September, but the acquisition and ongoing technical discussions with Hydro One about connecting to the power grid prevented that, he explained.

Municipal zoning was complete in September, and Shuniah has been co-operative with that zoning, noted Mawani.

The provincial environmental assessment was completed in September, which means construction can start. Federal environmental assessments are ongoing, but not required for construction.

Weather permitting, the company expects to start clearing roads and doing site preparation in December or January, with construction to begin in January or February.

There is already a considerable network of roads on the land where the turbines will go, said Mawani, and Ventus wants to use existing roads as much as possible, building new ones as needed.

Mawani said Ventus will be locking its turbine towers, but won‘t put gates on roads, as that is the landowner‘s role.

Access into the area will be from Highway 11/17 in the south and Magone Road in the north.

The project will be built in two phases, with the first to be done in 2008 and the second in 2009.

Whether the two phases will mean building half of the total project in each of the two years, or 30 and 70 per cent respectively, has yet to be determined, Mawani said.

Turbines will come from either Europe or the U.S., and the model – to be chosen in three to four weeks – will determine the number of turbines dotting the hills.

By Sarah Elizabeth Brown

The Chronicle Journal

20 November 2007