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Wind energy debate blows through AMM  

Power companies do not seem concerned the Government of Manitoba might be dragging its heels on wind power.

The issue was a hot point of discussion last week at the Association of Manitoba Municipalities convention in Brandon when David Huggill, Western Canada policy analyst for the Canadian Wind Energy Association, took Manitoba Hydro to task for not moving fast enough in getting wind energy projects off the ground.

“There are some players,” said Huggill,”who are quite prepared to walk away from Manitoba.”

Huggill said there are plenty of wind power generation business opportunities in Alberta, Ontario and Quebec, which are surging ahead of Manitoba Hydro in approving construction of wind farms.

“I would suggest you all, when you leave this room, go and get on the phone and phone Manitoba Hydro,” he said, to ask why the shortlist for new wind farms had not been announced.

Right now, Manitoba is looking to add 300 megawatts of wind-powered energy through three projects. A wind farm at St. Leon is up and running, but no announcement has been made about other pending projects, including a proposed wind farm at Elie. Westman Energy is involved in another project in St. Ambroise.

But businesses and wind energy groups do not seem terribly concerned that Manitoba is dragging its heels on the issue.

“I think the Manitoba government has been a very strong supporter of wind,” said Robert Hornung, president of the Canadian Wind Energy Association.

“We were very pleased to see the installation of the first wind farm in Manitoba and the announcement of the 300-megawatt request for proposals.”

Right now, there are 84 different submissions on the table for three wind power projects, and a number of different site locations have been identified. But no decisions have been made about which sites or projects have been selected.

Glenn Schneider, division manager of public affairs for Manitoba Hydro, said the deadline for submissions was in July, and the public utility is in the final stages of its engineering analysis. One factor the utility will consider in making its selection is the export potential for wind power.

“This is energy that is going to be exported, so we have to ensure that the price that we are getting for it can be recovered in the export market,” Schneider said, adding he expects the short list will be approved in a month’s time.

Hornung is not concerned Manitoba might be lagging behind other provinces in approving wind power, saying every jurisdiction is going at its own pace. Hornung believes the St. Leon wind power project showed Manitoba the economic benefits associated with wind power.

Several companies have found golden opportunities to pursue wind power projects outside Manitoba. Winnipeg-based Sequoia Energy Inc., which has put in a bid for a wind farm in Elie, has set up wind power projects in other parts of Canada and in the United States.

Ron Diduch, Sequoia’s chief executive officer, said there is a big demand for wind power in the U.S. as states look to reduce emissions and diversify towards renewable power. That has led Sequoia to set up an office in North Dakota.

“North Dakota is extremely busy,” Diduch said. “They have real power issues, power shortages.”

“In Minnesota, they require 20 per cent of the power to be renewable,” said Diduch.

He also said there is a big demand for wind energy in other provinces. Ontario is approaching 3,000 megawatts of wind energy; British Columbia put up a tender for 1,100 megawatts of wind power, he said, and Quebec is up to 2,500 megawatts.

Diduch does not seem worried Manitoba Hydro might be more interested in pursuing hydro dam projects as opposed to wind power right now. He believes the current focus on hydro is understandable given the provincial Crown corporation’s expertise with such projects.

Officials with the Manitoba government say they are committed to long-term expansion of wind power. Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Steve Ashton, who spoke at the AMM convention, expects to see a broadening of the amount of wind power.

“A lot of other jurisdictions have seen a lot of success,” he said in a telephone interview earlier this week.

Ashton said wind power serves as an excellent complement to hydroelectric power. He said in the next 10 years, people in Manitoba can expect “as much power coming from wind as some of our generators in the system.”

by John Cairns

Central Plains Herald-Leader

8 December 2007

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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