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St. Lawrence wind farm expansion blown down

Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro is not interested in an expansion of Enel Atlantic Canada’s wind farm in St. Lawrence – at least not now.

Hydro vice-president Rob Henderson told The Southern Gazette Friday the Crown corporation feels the province is well positioned in its energy requirements for the next few years.

“We’ve got a nice portfolio of wind, and we’re, of course, entering into the Muskrat Falls period where we’re going to have sustained energy from it for the long term,” he said, referring also to Elemental Energy’s wind farm in Fermeuse, in addition to the St. Lawrence project.

“Over the longer term, we would be very interested in developing the wind opportunities that are there in the province, to provide additional benefits well into the future, and we anticipate that that’s what we’ll be doing,” Henderson said.

“There is no requirement for the wind energy, and there isn’t a business case … to support the expanse of the wind in the short term. I would suggest in the longer term, when we have interconnections with the rest of North America, I think the opportunities then will expand a fair bit.”

Following last winter’s energy supply issues and rolling power outages across the province, Enel Atlantic Canada president Pascal Brun wrote to the province’s Public Utilities Board, saying the company was willing and able to double its installed capacity at St. Lawrence to approximately 54 megawatts.

In the May 8 letter, Brun said the company could have had the expansion ready “well before the winter 2015-16,” provided it was able to receive the required permits and enter into a power purchase agreement with Nalcor, Hydro’s parent company, in an “expeditious manner.”

Brun said Enel planned for future expansion during the

St. Lawrence wind farm’s first phase, pointing out the existing Ryan Hill substation and the transmission line to Newfoundland Power’s Laurentian substation is designed to accommodate the additional capacity.

“Even after the commissioning of Lower Churchill and the link to Nova Scotia, energy generation from the project will remain a contributor of renewable energy at a very competitive rate,” Brun wrote.

Brun confirmed in an email to The Gazette that the company expressed an interest in expanding the St. Lawrence wind project. After meeting with Hydro to discuss the corporation’s energy-supply plans, Enel concluded an expansion wouldn’t happen any time soon.

“While we remain open to any interest expressed by Hydro or the province, Enel is presently not pursuing any investment effort in Newfoundland,” he said.

In an emailed statement, Natural Resources Minister Derrick Dalley said the provincial government was aware Nalcor had discussions with Enel earlier this year.

“Following the events of January, all parties – including Hydro, Newfoundland Power and the PUB – have taken, and continue to take, steps to ensure the readiness of our provincial electricity system for the upcoming winter season. We support them in this work.”

Enel’s St. Lawrence project was the first commercial wind farm in the province and began operations in 2009. The site features nine wind turbines and generates approximately 100,000 MW hours a year. Enel and Hydro signed a 20-year power purchase agreement in 2007.

The company also has a 20-year, $2.5-million tax agreement with the Town of St. Lawrence

At its present size, the St. Lawrence wind farm has the potential to reduce fuel burned at the Holyrood Thermal Generating Station by 165,000 barrels of oil a year.

The wind farms in both St. Lawrence and Fermeuse, which also has a 27 MW capacity, are operating quite well, Henderson said.

“We have good relationships with the operators of those facilities and we’re in regular contact with them. They’ve been performing well. They’ve been producing energy in line with what we predicted before they came into operation. So they provide tremendous value in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, environmental benefits and, of course, reduced fuel consumption at Holyrood.”