Prairie utility seeks project partners

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Saskatchewan's publicly owned monopoly utility is looking for private sector partners to jointly develop up to 150 MW of wind power in the Canadian prairie province. SaskPower International, the utility's development subsidiary, is asking about ten companies with "recent and proven records" in the construction and operation of power projects to submit expressions of interest by the middle of this month. It hopes to have one or more partners in place by September, with at least part of the project online by 2004 or 2005. The utility wants all 150 MW operating by March 2007, the deadline for receiving payments under the federal government's wind power production incentive program.

When we work with world-class firms," says CEO John Wright, "SaskPower is able to tap into industry expertise in project development and implementation, while minimising our capital expenditures." The utility will incorporate power from the project into Saskatchewan's system mix rather than selling it as premium priced green power. "The cost of wind power is getting to the point where it compares with other forms of generation that we use and that is why we are rolling it into the grid," says the utility's Larry Christie.

SaskPower also sees wind generation as a way to help meet commitments under the Kyoto Protocol, which was ratified by the Canadian government late last year. SaskPower produces half of its electricity with coal and another 28% with gas, generation sources that together account for one quarter of all CO2 emitted in the province. "We view this as being one way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions," says Christie.

This latest plan, however, does not spell the end of the utility's premium-priced green power program, which markets the output of the 11.2 MW Sunbridge wind farm owned and SaskPower's own 5.9 MW Cypress project. The program is 98% subscribed and includes among its customers about nine large industrial and institutional buyers, a market segment that SaskPower expects to grow. In fact, says Christie, the utility should soon announce an expansion to its Cypress wind project to meet green demand. "There has been a strong movement towards green power from the business community in general, we feel."

Although SaskPower retains ownership of greenhouse gas offsets from the wind power it sells to residential and other small customers under its green power program, larger customers have the option of acquiring them. "For large industrial institutional customers, greenhouse credits are part of the negotiations. So, in other words, if they want them, they will probably end up with them," says Christie.

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