SaskPower goes ahead alone -- Vestas 150 MW order

SaskPower International is proceeding with what will be Canada's largest wind power project to date, despite losing ATCO Power as its major joint venture partner in the development. ATCO pulled out because of a shift in investment priorities, says ATCO Group CEO Nancy Southern.

SaskPower, the development arm of Saskatchewan's government-owned electric utility, began work last month on the 150 MW Rushlake Creek project in the province's south-west with upgrades to municipal roads. It is expected to be complete by December 2005. Vestas will supply, install and maintain the 83, 1.8 MW turbines.

ATCO Power is one of 12 companies under the ATCO umbrella, which owns or operates 5000 MW of electrical generation in Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom. In Alberta, where it owns gas and electric transmission and distribution utilities, the province's booming economy has ATCO struggling to keep up with demand, explains Southern, explaining the decision to pull out of the wind project. ATCO had seen the Saskatchewan project as a way to boost the proportion of renewables in its mix. Southern says ATCO is still interested in wind power and emphasises the decision to pull out of this joint venture had nothing to do with the viability of the project. "The project is a great project, and I believe it will be successful."

Frank Quennell, the government minister responsible for SaskPower, says the province and utility are committed to developing alternative energy sources. SaskPower will look at options for bringing on a new joint venture partner or partners as the project is implemented, says CEO Pat Youzwa.

Meanwhile, two wind power developers are among the three winners in SaskPower's call for up to 15 MW of small-scale "environmentally preferred" generation. Windswept Power Incorporated (WPI), which proposed three 3.6 MW projects, made the final cut, along with a planned 4.5 MW wind farm by WindWorks Energy Corporation. The third is a 5 MW heat recovery project.

SaskPower's Larry Christie says a confidentiality clause prevents him from revealing any details about the companies or their proposals, including which of the WPI projects was selected, until a signed contract is in place. The utility hopes to sign power purchase agreements by the end of the year.

SaskPower expects to issue a request for expressions of interest for another 15 MW this year, and eventually hopes to have 45 MW built under its Environmentally Preferred Power (EPP) program.

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