Saskatchewan project pulled after sharp rise in costs

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The rising cost of everything from wind turbines to crane rentals has forced Benchlands Wind Power Corporation to withdraw a proposed project in Saskatchewan just months after finalising a power purchase arrangement. Benchlands, a joint venture between WindWorks Energy of Calgary and Creststreet Windpower Development of Toronto, bid the 5.4 MW project into the first round of Sask-Power's environmentally preferred power (EPP) program in 2004 and negotiated a 20 year contract with the utility that was signed in March. "As we were going through that process, with all the construction activity in western Canada, the costs of labour, materials, steel, concrete, turbines, shot up beyond what our bid price was," says president Brock John. The site has about 70 MW of potential and Benchlands bid a second phase of the project into the recently completed second round of SaskPower's EPP program, hoping it could build both together and improve the economics by gaining some economies of scale. "We didn't get the second phase, so we just had to be realistic. It couldn't be done," he says. Despite the cancellation, says John, the project remains viable for development down the road." When exactly that might be could become clearer in the coming months. The Saskatchewan government is to develop an "action plan" for renewables and energy conservation programs, with the first report due in October and final recommendations expected in June 2007. "Our vision is that by the third decade of this century, one-third of the energy needs of Saskatchewan people will be met by renewable energy sources," says Premier Lorne Calvert.

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