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Utility signs up for more green wind -- Vision Quest builds new plant

Alberta electric utility, Enmax, has relaunched its retail green power program with a contract to buy an additional 30,000 MWh of wind energy a year for ten years, starting in 2001. To fulfil the contract, the power supplier, Calgary's Vision Quest Windelectric, will install 9.2 MW of new wind capacity this year.

"This is a substantial quantity of electricity," says Enmax vice-president Sean Durfy, who is aiming to sign up 20,000 customers to the utility's emissions-free wind energy program, Greenmax, by 2003. "There is a demand in the commercial sector and also in the residential sector, and that demand is stronger than it has ever been." Although Enmax is currently a municipal power provider based in Calgary, with about 320,000 customers, Durfy's projection encompasses all of Alberta because the company plans to offer its full range of services province-wide once deregulation of the power market introduces full retail competition January 1, 2001.

"All of our marketing efforts are derived from the research we do," says Durfy. "Our customers are telling us they want green power. And it's going to be a part of how we run our business -- to be a green electricity company. We're doing it for our customers and for ourselves."

Greenmax was started in 1998 and has about 1000 residential Calgary customers paying a minimum monthly premium of $7.50 to receive about 25% of their power from wind. Vision Quest already supplies Greenmax with power from four 600 kW Vestas wind turbines located in southern Alberta and is installing two 660 kW machines, also from Danish Vestas, this month to complete its previous contract with Enmax.

Fourteen more

Vision Quest's Jason Edworthy says the new agreement will necessitate the installation of 14 more Vestas 660 kW turbines before the end of the year, tripling the company's wind capacity. "The greater your installed base and the greater your customer acceptance, the higher your credibility is in new markets and in growing markets," says Edworthy. The company has plans to expand into Canada's other electricity market undergoing deregulation and has applied for a power marketing license from the Ontario Energy Board.

The relaunch of Greenmax from last month involves an extensive advertising campaign, says Durfy, and the program's payment structure has been made slightly more flexible. While residential customers still appear to be the main focus, the new effort will also target commercial consumers. In mid-February, the company invited wind and small hydro producers, exclusively, to bid on the power purchase agreement. Durfy says Enmax has decided to keep Greenmax a wind energy program because "wind is one of the most pure forms of green power." He adds: "We think wind is important for the economy of Alberta."

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