Utility ups wind investment again

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Canadian provincial utility Nova Scotia Power (NSP) is negotiating contracts with six independent power producers for 240 MW of renewable energy, almost twice what it originally set out to buy and its largest investment in new power generation since 1992. The utility's Margaret Murphy says all of the contracts are for wind power, with projects spread among eight different sites throughout the Atlantic province.

By the time they come on line at the end of 2009, she says, Nova Scotia will have about 300 MW of wind in a total generation portfolio of 2600 MW. "That is more than 10% of our installed capacity from wind turbines, and that is a large number by any standard anywhere in Canada or North America."

The utility issued a request for proposals in March 2007 for 130 MW of renewable energy. The decision to buy significantly more, says Murphy, was driven by a number of factors. One is the strength of the proposals, which came from established international players as well as local companies with a track record installing turbines in the province. "Obviously price is a factor as well," she says. "We put out the call to the market and the response has been very strong."

The utility is also facing mandatory renewable energy targets that require NSP and the province's six municipal distribution utilities to acquire 5% of their electricity from new renewable energy sources by 2010 and 10% by 2013. Once those targets are met, 18.5% of electricity consumed in Nova Scotia will come from renewable source that include existing hydro, biomass and tidal power.

"This takes us along that path," says Murphy. "It is hard to say where exactly it will take us because you have to look to the capacity factor of each wind farm and there are still some things to be determined with the individual developers, but my sense is it would take us to around 15%." The provincial targets dovetail with NSP's own goals, adds Murphy. "It is where we need to go. We are largely a fossil-fired utility. That is the basis of our generation. We're obviously strongly motivated to diversify and especially to seek out renewables and add those to our portfolio going forward."

The utility expected to sign contracts with developers by the end of 2007. The investment in new wind farms will be about C$500 million, the largest outlay for new power generation since NSP's Point Aconi coal-fired generating station was built 15 years ago. Payments for the energy produced by turbines will total approximately C$1.5 billion over the life of the contracts.

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