Quebec wind co-ops unite to participate in call for 2000 MW

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Wind power co-ops developing projects in Quebec have formed a new association that has registered to participate in Hydro-Quebec's call for 2000 MW of wind energy. The Coopératives Regroupées en Energie Renouvelable du Québec (CRERQ) intends to pool the resources of its members, which include community groups, villages and First Nations, and submit bids for at least ten projects totalling 300 MW. The group hopes to "calm the intense discussions" around wind energy development in Quebec, particularly in the Lower St Lawrence and Gaspésie, by finding a co-operative solution to a growing debate over how to maximize the economic benefits to the region, says Jean-Louis Chaumel, director of the wind energy group at the University of Quebec and one of CRERQ's organisers. "Social acceptance is the heart of the strategy of this new entity," he says. CRERQ believes community acceptance comes through financial control, says Chaumel, so projects must have at least 50% local ownership. The organisation is open to partnerships with private developers and Quebec financial institutions, which Chaumel argues will reduce project risks for everyone. Although the province has promised a separate 250 MW request for proposals for municipalities and co-ops who want to build their own wind projects, Chaumel says that plan remains "nebulous, foggy, without any precise date or rules." CRERQ members are also concerned waiting will limit their opportunities, he adds. The "majors" could capture the remaining and limited capacity on the grid as well as the best wind sites, he says.

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