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Shear Wind takes on ‘massive challenge’  

Credit:  QUENTIN CASEY, FOR THE TELEGRAPH-JOURNAL, nbbusinessjournal.canadaeast.com 13 August 2010 ~~

HALIFAX – The CEO of Shear Wind Inc. says his company could be producing up to 500 megawatts of wind-generated electricity within five years, including 100 megawatts at a large wind farm in northern New Brunswick.

Mike Magnus said his goal is to erect hundreds of wind turbines in the next half decade, enough to produce between 400-500 megawatts.

“It may not sound like a lot, but it’s a massive, massive challenge,” said the company president and CEO in a sit down interview. “Is it all feasible? Yeah, it is.”

That ambitious goal includes a plan for a 100-megawatt wind farm in New Brunswick’s Restigouche region. The planned location, referred to as the Mann Siding site, is situated on Crown-leased land just outside the town of Saint-Quentin.

“It has the potential of becoming a spectacular wind farm,” Magnus said at his Bedford, N.S. office. “It’s every bit as good as our site here in Nova Scotia, perhaps even better. The community, I think, will be very much behind this project.”

At this point, Shear Wind (TSX-V:SWX) is waiting for the New Brunswick government to issue a request for more wind power production in the province.

If successful in securing a long-term power purchase agreement, Shear Wind will begin putting up turbines and connecting them to the power grid in northern New Brunswick.

In fact, that’s exactly what the Halifax-based firm is set to do at its first major project: Glen Dhu, a 62-megawatt wind farm located east of New Glasgow, N.S.

Magnus said the company will begin installing turbines in September or October at Glen Dhu. The $170-million project is expected to be fully operational by February 2011 and power up to 50,000 homes per year.

Shear Wind currently has a 20-year power purchase agreement with Nova Scotia Power Inc. But Magnus said the Glen Dhu site could produce up to 230 megawatts if additional power agreements are secured in the future. In New Brunswick, meanwhile, Shear Wind is busy getting its Mann Siding site “bid ready” for the government’s next request for proposals.

“It’s a very important project,” Magnus said of the $250-million proposal. “It’s right on the top of our hit list.”

Currently, NB Power has wind power contracts totaling 358.5 megawatts. According to the provincial energy department, no date has been set for issuing a new request for proposals.

Founded in 2005, Shear Wind has since expanded its holdings across Canada. In addition to Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, the company is also developing wind projects in Saskatchewan and Alberta.

Inveravante, a privately held Spanish-utility conglomerate, holds 62 per cent of the company, which was initially funded by a group of friends. A mix of roughly 50 investors owns the remaining 40 per cent of the company.

Since its launch, Shear Wind has pumped nearly $75 million into its projects. And Magnus said the company plans to push another $100 million into its Nova Scotia project over next six months.

“This is not an easy business. It’s very, very capital intensive. Finding lenders and equity partners, especially after the economic downturn, is a very challenging part of the equation here,” Magnus said, noting each wind farm costs between $2.1 million and $2.5 million per megawatt. “You go through a bottle of Tums a day in this business.”

According to Magnus, the work of local wind developers could be made easier if regulations were streamlined between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

Specifically, he said the New Brunswick System Operator, the independent body that operates the transmission grid, should be merged with Nova Scotia’s system operator.

A merger, he said, would reduce red tape when looking to export power from Nova Scotia to the U.S., through New Brunswick.

“It would be nice to work with just one entity,” said Magnus, a former Kraft Canada Inc. vice-president who more recently served as the vice president of sales and marketing at Clearwater Seafoods (TSX: CLR.UN). “The sooner the distribution systems between the Maritime provinces are controlled under one roof, the better.”

Magnus also noted the company’s Restigouche wind farm could be used to export power to the U.S. “The wind sector should not be viewed any differently than the forestry industry,” he said. “We should be looking to it as an industry to exploit, as long as you’re not disrupting the environment or communities.”

Yves Gagnon, a renewable energy expert, says Shear Wind is one of many developers looking to tap the region’s wind energy resource. The issue, he says, is whether the private sector should be solely responsible for wind energy generation.

According to Gagnon, wind farms create few jobs but produce tidy profits. As well, there are few technical risks involved in setting them up. So, Maritime governments should be the main backers of such projects, as opposed to private companies, he said.

“Should governments rely on the private sector to do it, or should governments request their public utilities to develop wind farms?” said Gagnon, the K.C. Irving Chair in Sustainable Development at the Université de Moncton. “We need a vision to ensure that we develop the energy sector to our economic benefit, while providing social equity and protecting the environment.”

New Brunswick currently has two large wind farms: the Kent Hills Wind Farm near Moncton – owned by Calgary-based TransAlta Corporation – and the Caribou Wind Park near Bathurst, which is owned by GDF Suez S.A. They have a combined capacity of close to 200 megawatt and both sell their electricity to NB Power.

Source:  QUENTIN CASEY, FOR THE TELEGRAPH-JOURNAL, nbbusinessjournal.canadaeast.com 13 August 2010

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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