Major Canadian oil producer Suncor buys into US wind and solar developer

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Alberta-based Suncor Energy Inc has bought a minority equity investment in US company Northern Power Systems, a commercial wind and solar energy developer. Suncor, one of Canada's biggest petroleum producers, channelled C$3 million through its Ontario subsidiary, Sunoco, to Northern Power Systems, based in Vermont. The deal also includes plans for a joint venture that will develop large-scale wind power and other renewable projects in Canada. "We're quite confident that Northern Power is the best, basically, in the world," says Suncor's Patti Lewis. "It has a lot of experience under its belt in developing alternatives and renewable energy solutions for communities, especially in remote regions, which is very important here in Canada. Some of our target communities are up in the north." In addition to designing and installing stand-alone and grid connected power systems, Northern Power manufactures the North Wind 100/20, a 100 kW direct-drive wind turbine tailored to suit cold climates. Lewis declines to elaborate on wind projects the joint venture may undertake, the scale being considered is in the 20 MW range. "Some of this, for instance, is to provide power to pipelines and things like that," says Lewis. "But we hope the relationship will branch out beyond that. As it evolves we probably won't be limited to just remote communities or remote businesses." Suncor's investment in Northern is the second expenditure in a five-year, $100-million plan to build a renewable energy business, which is also intended to offset greenhouse gas emissions from increased oil production. In July 2000 it formed a partnership with Ontario Engineering firm Conestoga-Rovers and Associates to build power plants fuelled by landfill gas.

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