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Canada

Peigans sell wind as market opens

Canadian electricity retailer Epcor of Edmonton has signed a ten year agreement with Alberta's Peigan Indian Utility Corp (PIUC) to buy the output of PIUC's first wind turbine, a 750 kW unit from NEG Micon. It is now being installed on the Peigan reserve in southern Alberta, says project co-ordinator William Big Bull.

The turbine, expected to generate about 2300 MWh a year, will supply about 65% of Epcor's green power product in 2001, says the company's Lyn Hutchings-Mah. Right now, Epcor offers its customers a blend of biomass, solar and small hydro. So far, says Hutchings-Mah, about 2900 Edmonton households have signed up for green power, paying premiums ranging from C$5 to C$40 a month to supply between 10% and 100% of their electricity.

That number could jump significantly in January, when Alberta's electricity market opens to retail competition and Epcor can market its green product right across the province. And the company will have a good foundation from which to start, says Hutchings-Mah. In September, Epcor announced it had bought TransAlta's retail business in Alberta for C$110 million. The transaction, which involves 350,000 customers and 100 employees, more than doubles Epcor's customer base of 270,000.

As the company's green power program grows, says Hutchings-Mah, wind will continue to be a significant part of the mix. "We are going to be looking to buy more, and to be honest, wind is seen as a very popular option." In fact, says Big Bull, Epcor and PIUC are already "in discussions" about future wind power purchases.

More than two years ago, the Peigans announced plans to build a C$200 million, 101 MW wind farm, starting with 4 MW to supply the reserve's 3000 residents. The plan, a joint venture with Advanced Thermodynamics Corporation, the Canadian dealer for Nordex turbines, included a tower manufacturing facility on the reserve.

That partnership has ended, says Big Bull, but PIUC continues to pursue its goals. Deregulation in Alberta has caused some delay, but he views this fall's "lone soldier" as the first turbine in what will eventually become a large scale wind farm on the Peigan reserve. "Our initial plans are that we are going to go with a 30 MW project," he says. "Then from there, we'll just build as the megawatts occur."

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