Ontario government cancels wind farm contracts

CANADA: Four large wind farms are among hundreds of other renewable energy projects to have their contracts cancelled by the new Ontario government.

Wpd's White Pines project was due to feature nine Senvion MM92 2MW models
Wpd's White Pines project was due to feature nine Senvion MM92 2MW models

Sites being developed by Invenergy, Boralex, Wpd and RES Canada were included on a list of projects "identified for wind-down" because they had missed key development milestones, according to the Ontario ministry of energy, northern development and mines.

Invenergy’s 57.5MW Strong Breeze, RES Canada and Boralex’s 50MW Otter Creek, and RES Canada and Sierra Nevada Power’s 32MW Eastern Fields were all awarded capacity in a tender in March 2016.

Hundreds of smaller clean energy projects, including wind farms owned by developer North Shore Power Group and Ontario citizens, were also cancelled.

German developer Wpd, meanwhile, said it had already installed the second turbine at its 18.45MW White Pines site when it was informed that the project could be abandoned earlier this month. 

The 18.45MW site was due to go online in September, following an investment by Wpd of C$82 million ($62.3 million). It had received all its permits since 2009, the company added. 

In a statement, the Ontario minister of government and house leader Todd Smith -- who also lives near the project -- said the administration would submit "urgent legislation" to cancel the project because it had "received notice to proceed during the election period before the government had a chance to make any decision on the project for the benefit of the people of Prince Edward County". 

"These three priorities send a clear and serious message about what you can expect from our government. We are prepared to act. And we will always put the best interests of the people first," said Smith.

Wpd said the announcment came as an "unmatched surprise" and it assumes "legally granted and valid approvals will be honored at any time, even in the event of a change of government".

"Anything else would send out a fatal signal to the entire economy," the company added. 

Wpd board member Hartmut Brösamle added: "Trust in the rule of law and investment security in Ontario would be trampled underfoot if the abrupt abandonment of the wind farm project, which is in the middle of construction, were confirmed.

"A halt to construction without warning from the ministry would have significant economic consequences for all involved parties," Brösamle added.

Speaking to Windpower Monthly, Brösamle said the company will need to wait until the legislation is published before its lawyers can argue against it. 

In the meantime, construction of the project is continuing, with the remaining seven turbines due to be installed in the next few weeks. 

Wpd has not had direct contact from the Ontario government regarding the project, but Brösamle said there was no legal reason why the project should be stopped. 

The German developer has four projects operating in Canada, all in Ontario.

Brösamle said the company was confident it would be allowed to complete White Pines, however, should the government succeed in its efforts to abandon the project, then the company would need to reconsider its operations in Canada. 

Trade body CanWEA's Ontario regional director, Brandy Giannetta, said the whole wind industry in Ontario is concerned by the uncertainty that has occured with the new Ontario government. 

Giannetta expressed a desire to work with the new government to showcase what wind power can bring to the province. 

"There will be a supply gap in the early 2020s, so we will need new generation and onshore wind is the cheapest form of new electricity in Canada," Giannetta told Windpower Monthy. 

"We want to have a dialogue with any government, old or new. We want to get a better sense of where they want to go. We don't know what we're up against. 

"The industry is concerned and have a right to be. We want to ensure investor confidence across the board and need a stable policy environment to do that," Giannetta added. 

The new Conservative Ontario government was elected in early June and sworn at the end of the month, led by new province premier Doug Ford.

Among Ford's first act as premier was to abandon the "cap-and-trade" carbon tax programme.

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