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Series of projects come online -- Canadian wind capacity leaps

Ontario alone was almost entirely responsible for boosting Canada's installed wind capacity past the 2 GW mark in 2008, with four projects coming online late in the year to add 129 MW to the province's power grid. Wind capacity in Ontario is now 782.26 MW, up from 491 MW at the start of 2008.

Industry newcomer Kruger Energy, based in Montreal, officially opened its 101.2 MW Port Alma Wind Farm in November. The project uses 44 Siemens 2.3 MW turbines, marking the turbine maker's entry into the Canadian market. Port Alma won a 20-year power purchase contract from the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) in November 2005. The project is located in Chatham-Kent in southern Ontario, which has been hard hit by declines in the province's manufacturing sector. The region is looking to create a new generation of green jobs in the renewable energy sector.

"Chatham-Kent Council has placed the development of green energy as one of its four top strategic directions for the years 2007 through to 2010," says town mayor Randy Hope. "The Kruger Energy project has given that strategic direction the real substance and impetus it needed."

Toronto developer AIM PowerGen completed its 2008 build program with the commissioning of its Mohawk Point and Clear Creek wind farms. Electricity from the projects, both 9.9 MW in size and using Vestas 1.65 MW turbines, is being sold to the OPA under 20-year renewable energy standard offer program contracts, which offer a fixed price of C$0.11/kWh for electricity generated by small-scale renewable energy projects up to 10 MW in size and connected into the distribution grid rather than at the level of the transmission network.

"These projects are among the first to be built under Ontario's standard offer program and among some of the first generation projects to be connected to a local distribution system. We really were breaking new ground," says CEO Mike Crawley.

The company completed two other standard offer projects earlier this year and AIM vice-president David Timm says it is now working on getting four more, all 9.9 MW in size and collectively know as the Harrow project, ready for construction in the spring.

Calgary-based Enbridge Inc has also completed its 8.25 MW Cruickshank standard offer wind project, made up of five Vestas 1.65 MW turbines and located near Kincardine, a town on the shore of Lake Huron. The company is also in the process of commissioning its 181.5 MW Ontario Wind Power Project in the same region, made up of 110 Vestas 1.65 MW. Enbridge had hoped to finish it by the end of 2008, but the company's Bob Simpson says it is now targeting completion for the first quarter of 2009.

The first non-Ontario project to come on line in Canada in 2008 is Cartier Wind Energy's 109.5 MW Carleton project in Quebec, which was finished on budget and on time to meet Hydro-Quebec's December delivery deadline, says Michel Letellier from Innergex Renewable Energy. Cartier is a partnership between Quebec's Innergex and Calgary's TransCanada Corporation.

Carleton is Cartier's third wind farm built on the province's Gaspé Peninsula after the company won six contracts totalling 740 MW of capacity from Hydro-Quebec in 2004. Construction of the project, made up of 73 GE Energy 1.5 MW turbines, began in October. In November, Innergex closed C$53.4 million in non-recourse project financing for its 38% interest in the project, converting a five-year construction loan into a loan amortising over 18.5 years. The lenders also provided an 18.5-year swap facility in order to hedge the project from any adverse future interest rate movements.

"Stemming from the long term relationships we have established with strong financial institutions, closing this financing in the current market demonstrates that high quality projects can still attract funding at interesting terms and conditions. With the swap facility in place, the project will benefit from long-term financing at an effective interest rate slightly below 5%," says Letellier.

By early December, Canada's installed wind capacity sat at 2246 MW. But it was expected to go higher, with projects in New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland scheduled for completion in 2008.

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