A Calgary company is advancing a proposed $110-million wind farm in Cape Breton but doesn’t plan to be a player in Nova Scotia’s new renewable electricity market.
BluEarth Renewables Inc., through subsidiary Cape Breton Hydro Inc., has registered its 50-megawatt East Bay Hills wind project for provincial environmental approval.
Marlo Raynolds, BluEarth’s vice-president of market development, said Thursday the company is more interested in winning a long-term contract under a competitive bid process.
“We want to demonstrate that we continue to be interested in investing in Nova Scotia,” he said in an interview from Calgary. “This is a modest investment in advancing the project. There are many steps ahead to see it proceed.”
Environment Minister Randy Delorey has until July 5 to decide whether to approve the 30-turbine project.
BluEarth acquired East Bay Hills in 2011-2012 from Glace Bay’s Cape Breton Explorations Ltd.
Cape Breton Explorations began developing the project, which included a hydro facility, in 2007. The hydro plan was scrapped after the acquisition, said an environmental report prepared for BluEarth by Bedford’s McCallum Environmental Ltd.
Raynolds said he doesn’t know if the new Liberal government plans to issue another request for proposals for renewable energy.
The province introduced legislation in the fall to create a retail electricity market, which will allow licenced green-energy suppliers to sell directly to customers, starting in late 2015.
The East Bay Hills venture was one of the losing bidders during the last competitive process, which was issued while the New Democrats were in power. Long-term contracts with Nova Scotia Power were awarded in 2012 by an independent renewable electricity administrator.
The winning projects, now under construction, were South Canoe in Lunenburg County and Sable Wind in Guysborough.
Nova Scotia Power is a minority partner in both wind farms.
Cape Breton Explorations, East Bay Hill’s original owner, has launched a court challenge over the utility’s role in South Canoe.
The BluEarth vice-president said retail power sales may work for smaller-scale projects in Nova Scotia. But it will be difficult for larger ventures to find the customer base needed to be viable, he added.
“There are very few customers that are both credit worthy – large enough – and interested in, essentially, hedging electricity prices for 20 years,” he said.
Raynolds said the system has worked in larger provinces like Alberta that have a big industrial base.
If East Bay Hills is able to land the major customer it needs, construction would start in the fall of 2015, with the wind farm being operational a year later.
The Cape Breton venture would be located atop a ridge overlooking Lake Uist, about 50 kilometres southwest of Sydney. The 2,830-hectare site is provincial Crown land on the east side of Bras d’Or Lake.
According to the environmental assessment, the site is mostly forest but does have several isolated wetlands.
The report said the company is using existing logging roads, where possible, to help protect the environment.
But some new roads will be needed, the filing added.
The project does have community support, based on previous and more recent public consultations, the consultant said.
BluEarth owns or is a partner in wind, hydro and solar projects operating or in development in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia.
The company’s major investors are the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan Board and ARC Financial of Calgary.
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