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Wind power project hits roadblocks; City backs away from funding  

Credit:  By Charles Hamilton, The Starphoenix | January 25, 2014 | www.thestarphoenix.com ~~

City officials have backed away from a community wind project that could power 16,000 Saskatoon homes, according to the man leading the charge for a $43-million 10-turbine wind farm outside the city.

“We would love to work with the city, but clearly they are not there,” said James Glennie, president of Saskatoon Community Wind.

The multimillion-dollar independent energy project aims to be completely financed by community investors, but organizers were asking for city support to get the program off the ground.

While Glennie said he’s found widespread public support for the project since he began lobbying two years ago, the group has hit a major snag.

Right now it is very difficult for the city to buy power from a third party, he said, adding SaskPower’s high transmission and connection charges make the economics difficult.

A new city report, going before council’s planning and operations committee next week, agrees with Glennie’s assessment, stating that the current structure “may render some projects uneconomical, depending on their size, capacity factor, and location.”

“It’s not free to get started.

There is cost to get the ball rolling,” said Trevor Bell, director of Saskatoon Light & Power.

An application fee to SaskPower costs at least $20,000, and the producers would also be responsible for expensive studies on how the entire project would work.

In order to provide power to homeowners in Saskatoon, Community Wind could sell electricity to Saskatoon Light and Power using SaskPower’s transmission system. Under the current rate and tariff structure, however, Glennie says it’s hard to make it economical.

City council has previously rejected a request for $40,000 in funding for the project, stating that the interconnection – essentially getting the power from the farm into SaskPower’s grid and eventually selling it to Saskatoon Light and Power – for the proposed 20 megawatt wind farm could cost as much as $13 million. And because no exact location has been pinpointed for Community Wind’s farm, Bell said it’s impossible to measure the exact costs of the project.

Because the proposed wind farm would exist outside of Saskatoon Ligh & Power’s official area, the city is not interested in paying for any of the feasibility studies, Bell said.

“We are not providing any funding.”

Glennie, who moved to Saskatoon last summer, has headed up large-scale wind power non-profits and lobby groups in New Zealand, the United States and the United Kingdom. He said the rates charged in this city are higher than anywhere else he’s seen.

“That’s the fundamental issue. The existing structure does render some projects uneconomical … clearly this rate structure was devised for a different time,” Glennie said.

SaskPower has invited Glennie’s group to apply to become an independent power producer to sell electricity directly to SaskPower through a long-term contract, according to city documents.

Even without city support, Glennie vows to move forward.

“There is a recognition that electricity markets are changing and there is a will to make something like this work,” he said.

Source:  By Charles Hamilton, The Starphoenix | January 25, 2014 | www.thestarphoenix.com

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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