First phase up of major plant

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Five Vestas 1.8 MW wind turbines -- the first to go up in Quebec in five years -- are up in the first phase of 3Ci's 54 MW Mount Copper wind project near Murdochville on the Gaspe Peninsula. The company, based in Montreal, expects to largely complete construction of 55 more by the end of the year and to start building the neighbouring 54 MW Mount Miller wind farm, also with Vestas turbines, by late summer or early fall.

Finalisation of the environmental permits for both projects should be complete by mid-June, says 3Ci. The projects carry a combined price tag of C$180 million. "The plan is to have most of the construction done by year end," says 3Ci's Robert Vincent. Mount Miller is being developed by 3Ci together with Toronto's Northland Power, a leading independent power producer.

Mount Copper's first phase was one of the first two projects financed by Toronto-based Creststreet Asset Management's wind power flow-through fund, created to take advantage of a Canadian tax law that allows wind developers to flow-though certain pre-development expenses, including the installation of test wind turbines, to shareholders who can claim them as deductions on their income tax. The project will be completed using construction debt financing.

Power from the projects is being sold to Hydro-Quebec's production arm, an agreement that is separate from the utility's request for proposals for 1000 MW of wind issued last year. Bids for that solicitation are due June 15.

The provincial government, which owns Hydro-Quebec, sees wind power as a way to help diversify the economy of Murdochville. The town has been struggling since Noranda Inc shut down its copper mine in the spring of 2002. (Windpower Monthly, September 2003). Residents voted that year to shut the town down, but the province decided to keep it alive with an aid package focussed on renewable energy and ecology driven tourism.

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