Atlantic utility responds to demand -- Nova Scotia

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Nova Scotia Power will buy the output of a 31 MW wind farm to be built on the Tantramar Marsh near the province's border with New Brunswick, a purchase designed to help fulfil a growing demand for wind power from the utility's customers. "They've told us they want more energy from renewable sources, especially wind, and we are listening," says CEO Chris Huskilson.

The utility signed a 15 year power purchase agreement with New Brunswick's Wind Dynamics Inc and EHN Wind Power Canada, a subsidiary of Spain's Acciona Group, a major wind power developer and project owner. The C$60 million Amherst Wind Energy Project is expected to be in commercial operation in 2007. Wind Dynamic's Tom Vihvelin says the partners have not yet picked a turbine model, but are in the process of negotiating with a shortlist of potential suppliers.

The deal, the result of a request for proposals issued late last year, brings Nova Scotia Power's wind energy purchases over the last 16 months to nearly 100 MW. The province's first commercial wind project, the 30.6 MW Pubnico Point Wind Farm, was commissioned earlier this year and the utility has also signed power purchase agreements with six wind developers with plans to build 25 MW of projects less than 2 MW in size, and with Glace Bay Lingan Wind Power for a 12 MW project expected to be online next year.

Important habitat

The Tantramar Marsh is a large area of tidal wetlands that have been partially transformed to farmland by dykes built by the original Acadian settlers in the 17th century. The marshes are an important habitat for an array of waterfowl and other avian species, but bird studies conducted at the project site, a sod farm located several kilometres from any wild marshland, have raised no red flags, says Vihvelin. "We've been studying it very, very carefully. We've been working closely with the Canadian Wildlife Service and Ducks Unlimited."

Wind Dynamics was attracted to the area because of the strong and persistent winds that rush up the Bay of Fundy and sweep across the marshes. But strong local support for wind power was another factor, says Vihvelin. In fact, several years ago the town of Amherst lobbied Nova Scotia Power to install a test wind turbine on the marsh. "When you've got good wind and that kind of support, you get a pretty good feeling about the project."

Future prospects

Vihvelin also has a good feeling about the potential for further wind development in the region. Wind Dynamics, formed in May 2003, is targeting all of Canada's Atlantic Ocean provinces and currently has several projects under development in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Its partner in the Amherst wind farm, EHN, is equally optimistic about its future prospects. "Our company has selected Canada as one of the strategic countries for its international development," says vice-president Fernando Fererras. EHN is a partner in Alberta's 30 MW Magrath wind farm and in the 30 MW Chin Chute wind project, also located in Alberta and set to begin construction this fall.

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