The call will have two separate tranches of 700MW and 300MW, Normandeau said. The first is designed to fill the gap between the 3.3GW of wind currently operating or under contract to come online in the next five years and the provincial government's target of 4GW by 2015. The second is part of Quebec's recently unveiled Plan Nord, a strategy for developing the sparsely populated northern three quarters of the province's land mass that calls for the installation of 3GW of new hydro, 300MW of wind and 200MW from other renewable-energy sources.
While Normandeau did not say when the RFP would be released, industry observers expect the first 700MW block to go out to the market by the end of this year or early 2012.
Commenting on Normandeau's statement, Jean-Francois Nolet, the Canadian Wind Energy Association's Quebec policy manager, said: "From our side, the sooner the better. Those megawatts have to be in the ground and operating by 2015. There is a significant pipeline of projects in the advanced stages of development that would be able to respond quickly to a new tender."
Quebec's last call for large-scale wind projects attracted nearly 8GW of bids, about four times what the utility was seeking. "We have a great number of projects ready to be submitted as we speak," Nolet added.
The industry would like to see the terms of the RFP set as broadly as possible, he said, unlike some past procurements that have either targeted specific areas of the province or set limits on project ownership and size. "Two things we would like to see are flexibility and diversity," he explained. "Those two ingredients are necessary to make sure that we have very competitive prices at the end of the road."
Nolet said he expected to see the same kind of local-content provisions that have been part of previous wind purchases. The province used those requirements to build a wind sector that employs more than 5,000 people. The prospect of new orders and installations helps alleviate some of the uncertainty facing the market.
"This will consolidate the jobs and manufacturing that we have in the province," said Frederic Cote, general manager of the TechnoCentre Eolien, a non-profit organisation created to promote the development of a Quebec-based industry. "We think it's a good signal."
At the same time, Cote said it was only a first step. "We've built, from scratch, an industry that is now worth billions of dollars and we need to have programmes that will sustain it," he said. "We need a more substantial commitment for the future."
Nolet agreed, pointing to an industry proposal for adding another 8GW of wind to Quebec's grid by 2025. "This announcement doesn't erase the fact that we need to discuss, now, the future of the wind industry in this province after 2015," he said.