March 13, 2015

NextEra planning for a bid under renewable energy program

Proposal could add 50 to 60 turbines in Lambton | By Paul Morden, Sarnia Observer | Wednesday, March 11, 2015 |

NextEra Energy is signing up landowners for a possible new wind energy project in eastern Lambton County and neighbouring Middlesex County.

The company that built the 92-turbine Jericho project in Lambton, as well as projects in Middlesex, Huron and other Ontario counties, is developing plans for its Hardy Creek Wind Energy Centre in Warwick, Brooke-Alvinston and Adelaide-Metcalfe townships.

“We’ve got a base of landowners signed up,” said Ben Greenhouse, director of development for NextEra Canada.

“We’re interested in signing more.”

The company has also approached municipal governments in the three communities as it prepares to bid under the Large Renewable Procurement process expected to award contracts for up to 300 MW of new wind energy generation in Ontario.

“There is still a major hurdle for the project to overcome, which is getting a contract to sell power,” Greenhouse said.

“The project is really in its infancy right now.”

Ontario’s Independent Electricity System Operator released final details for a request for proposals Tuesday, with a submission deadline of Sept. 1. NextEra is one of 42 companies that qualified earlier to submit proposals under the new procurement program.

Greenhouse said NextEra is considering a 100-MW to 120-MW proposal for the Hardy Creek project, with a maximum of 50 to 60 turbines.

But, he added the company will be competing for a limited number of contacts expected to be available.

“We’re confident in our ability to complete and our ability to execute,” Greenhouse said, “but at the end of the day, of all these projects people are hearing about, there’s only 300 MW going to be awarded in this round.”

Officials with NextEra were scheduled to attend Brooke-Alvinston council Thursday, and they have been talking with staff in Warwick.

Both townships are among the Ontario municipalities that declared themselves unwilling hosts for wind turbines.

Ontario’s 2009 Green Energy Act stripped municipal councils of their planning powers for wind projects, but the provincial government said in 2013 a new system of awarding renewable energy projects would require companies to work with municipalities.

“It will be very, very difficult for a developer to be approved without municipal engagement, in some significant way,” Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli said at the time.

The new procurement program scores projects based on several sets of criteria, including whether or not they have municipal support, Greenhouse said.

He said that support improves a project’s chances, but “not having municipal support isn’t necessarily a fatal blow.”

Greenhouse added municipalities in other parts of the province have been willing to discuss with the company why they declared themselves unwilling hosts.

“Each municipality is going to have to look at the pros and the cons of the position they’ve taken in the past, and the position they want to take going forward,” Greenhouse said.

“Hopefully, we can bring some positive benefits that make them change their minds.”

A new report, prepared for NextEra by Guy Holburn of the Ivey Business School, says that since 2011 four wind projects have brought an initial investment of approximately $1.4 billion to Ontario’s Haldimand County.

New jobs, property taxes, land lease payments and contributions by wind companies will add another $312 million to that community over the next 20 years, the report says.

NextEra will continue working with landowners in the months ahead, and plans to hold a public open house about the Hardy Creek project between now and early summer, Greenhouse said.

“And then, we’ll submit our bid in September and wait to hear more.”

It may be the end of this year, or early 2016, before bidders learn if they’ve received contracts, he said.

After that, successful projects will need provincial environmental approval to move ahead.

If the Hardy Creek proposal secures a contract, Greenhouse said he wouldn’t expect construction to begin earlier than 2018.

[rest of article available at source]

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