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Atlantic Loop will help expand wind energy sector, P.E.I. MP says

A multimillion-dollar promise to fund an Atlantic Loop will allow wind energy to be exported more easily and create new jobs in rural areas, says a P.E.I. MP.

Egmont MP Bobby Morrissey said the province continues to struggle to get its green wind energy to larger markets in Quebec, Ontario and the U.S., and that is holding the industry back from future growth.

In Wednesday’s speech from the throne, the federal government announced it would “transform how we power our economy and communities by moving forward with the Clean Power Fund, including with projects like the Atlantic Loop that will connect surplus clean power to regions transitioning away from coal.”

The speech was short on details but Morrissey said it’s a nearly $300-million commitment that would help build new power lines and grids to get green power from the region to new markets.

The project will take years to complete.

‘There is an infrastructure bottleneck’

Morrissey said it should open the door to more private investments in wind farms on the Island.

“In the Atlantic provinces, there is an infrastructure bottleneck,” Morrissey said from Ottawa.

“It primarily exists between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Because it was through different jurisdictions nobody was prepared to do the investments required to get rid of that bottleneck.”

As of 2018, there were 203 megawatts of installed wind capacity in P.E.I. according to the federal government’s Canada Energy Regulator.

However, the vast majority of the electricity consumed on the Island comes from New Brunswick and that electricity including a mix of nuclear, fossil fuels and hydroelectric, says the regulator.

About 98 per cent of the power generated on the Island is from wind farms.

‘There’s no place to sell’

Robbie Thibodeau, site manager of the West Cape Wind Farm, said his company has faced challenges selling its power because it cannot always get access to the transmission lines needed to get that energy from P.E.I. to its customers.

West Cape Wind Farm is located in western P.E.I., near O’Leary. It is P.E.I.’s largest wind farm.

The farm’s 55 turbines produce 99 megawatts of power, which the company says can power about 25,000 homes annually.

“I think it could open up for wind farms to get up and be able to sell their energy somewhere, and that seems to be the issue right now. There’s no place to sell your energy,” said Thibodeau.

Nobody could be reached from the province for comment Wednesday evening.

In July, the federal and P.E.I. governments announced that together they would spend $44 million on a 106-kilometre transmission line to transport energy from future wind generation projects in western P.E.I. – specifically, a new wind farm to be built in Skinners Pond.

The line would help the province manage power from a planned farm in Skinners Pond, which the politicians said is planned for 2025 and will produce 40 megawatts of energy.

The creation of the Atlantic loop will make wind energy more viable, Morrissey said. He believes it will mean more private sector investment and more jobs for P.E.I.

“These are year-round, good paying jobs,” he said.

“They are technical jobs, they require young people to be technically trained in this area and we all know these are good-paying jobs so it keeps people in the rural areas.”