Nova Scotia Power will invest $144.5 million over the next two years in a pair of wind farms in which it is a partner.
The utility will contribute $31.2 million next year to the cost of the South Canoe and Sable wind projects, according to its draft 2013 capital plan. The investment will increase to $109.4 million in 2014.
Warden Lloyd Hines of the Municipality of the District of Guysborough, which is leading Sable Wind, said Tuesday those numbers may sound high, but the cost of the municipality’s project is in line with other provincial wind farms.
“They’re a key partner for us,” Hines said in an interview, referring to Nova Scotia Power’s role as a minority partner in the $25-million venture.
“Having somebody who knows this industry and knows the electrical business as well as they do as a investment partner in the project gives us a lot of confidence.”
The municipality’s 13.8-megawatt wind farm near Canso will have six turbines.
Nova Scotia Power will invest $14.3 million in Sable Wind, most of it in 2014.
The utility’s investment in South Canoe Wind, a $200-million project led by Minas Basin Pulp and Power of Hantsport and Oxford Frozen Foods, will be much larger.
The power company will provide $103.4 million for its minority stake in the project, which will be the province’s largest wind farm. The amount includes $29.9 million next year and $73.5 million the following one.
The wind project, in Lunenburg County near New Ross, will include a total of 30 to 50 turbines.
The venture includes a 78-megawatt wind farm led by Oxford and a neighbouring 24-megawatt project headed by Minas Basin. They will be on a massive 6,000-hectare site owned mostly by Minas Basin.
All three projects, approved this summer by the province’s renewable electricity administrator, are slated to be operational by Jan. 1, 2015.
Besides investing in the projects themselves, Nova Scotia Power will also spend $23 million for transmission upgrades and other infrastructure needed for South Canoe. Most of the money would be spent in 2014.
The system upgrades needed for Sable are expected to total $1 million over the next two years.
Overall, Nova Scotia Power is asking the regulator to approve a $336.9-million capital plan for next year.
That is an $18.2-million increase in capital spending compared with this year.
But the utility said it won’t need more money from ratepayers because its revenue requirement will decrease by $8.9 million as as result of the plan, taking into account depreciation and offsetting factors.
The plan, which includes new projects, routine spending and carry-over items, is already factored into electricity rate hikes. Rates are expected to increase by three per cent in each of the next two years.
“Our capital strategy reflects our long-term objective to transform our business to a cleaner generation mix in order to meet evolving emission standards, and to improve reliability of the power system,” said the plan, filed Tuesday with the Utility and Review Board.
One customer representative said he hasn’t had a chance to review the proposed plan but will be looking at it closely to see what projects are justified.
“We’re always concerned about the numbers,” said Nelson Blackburn, a Bedford lawyer and provincially appointed small-business advocate
“This is going to be scrutinized.”
The spending proposal also includes $2.5 million in upgrades needed because of the proposed Maritime Link, a subsea cable between Newfoundland and Cape Breton.
Nova Scotia Power said some planned projects have been put on hold as a result of the province’s troubled pulp and paper industry, which has reduced the demand for electricity by 1,400 gigawatt hours.
For instance, $18.2 million in improvements to the Marshall Falls, Halifax County, hydroelectric system won’t go ahead as planned this year.
The utility said it will be able to meet provincial renewable electricity projects without having to rely on Marshall Falls.