Independent goes for fast entry

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A new international wind energy player, Irish Mainstream Renewable Power, has entered the Canadian market through a joint venture to build C$840 million worth of new wind farms in Alberta by 2013. Mainstream signed up with Calgary's Alberta Wind Energy Corporation (AWEC) for an 80% stake in three projects totalling 408 MW. AWEC will retain a 20% share.

The joint venture is being launched with the C$100 million, 46 MW Old Man River project near Pincher Creek, now in the final stages of development. The partners expect to start construction in late 2009 and reach commercial operation in 2010. AWEC will retain ownership of the two Vestas 1.8 MW turbines already installed at the site. The 62 MW Windy Point Wind Farm is due to be fully operational by 2012, while a 300 MW project in the Waterton area is slated for 2013.

Sherra Zulerons, Mainstream's general manager in Canada, says the company's strategy is to pursue acquisitions and partnerships that "get us into construction by 2010." Alberta, with a competitive market for new generation, is the place to do it. Most other Canadian markets acquire wind through request for proposals processes awarding long term power purchase agreements. With most contracts for new construction over the next few years awarded, she says, it makes it difficult to break in.

"The open market is perhaps challenging, however, our timing is our own," Zulerons explains. "These projects have a fantastic resource, and the Alberta Wind Energy people are mature developers and have done a really good job on these projects. So the quality was there as well."

Alberta also has an established market for carbon offsets, says Zulerons, which could add to a project's revenue stream. In 2007, the Alberta government passed a law requiring large industrial emitters to reduce the emission intensity of their operations by 12% a year. Buying offsets from wind generators is one option for compliance. They can also pay C$15 a tonne into a technology fund to meet their reduction obligations. "Are they paying into the fund? I think some are, but at least the fund establishes the price," says Zulerons.

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