Parti Quebecois is changing Canada's direction regarding energy supply. New wind farms are being planned and The Great Whale project shelved. The Great Whale was a highly criticised hydro project initiated under the former premier of Quebec. The project would have had adverse impact on both the environment and society. Greenpeace suggests the saved money be spent on energy efficiency programmes and renewables. Hydro Quebec analysts foresee that wind power will be of great value to the utility's largely hydroelectric system.

For delegates at a wind energy seminar in Canada, November 18 was a red letter day. Gathered by the Canadian Wind Energy Association at a seminar, Windfarms: Technology impacts/resource development, at Rimouski on Quebec's Gaspe Peninsula, they got more good news than they bargained for. Not only did the 175 mostly local participants learn more about wind farms being planned for the peninsula by Kenetech, York-Vestas, Hydro Quebec and others, but on that very day came the announcement by Quebec Premier Jacques Parizeau that Hydro Quebec's massive $13.3 billion, 3,212 MW Great Whale hydroelectric complex would be shelved. It had been planned for over a decade by the former Liberal government.

Great Whale has been roundly criticised internationally for its adverse environmental and social impacts on the land and people of northern Quebec. Some 3,400 square kilometres would have been flooded. Parizeau's Parti Quebecois (PQ) government won office in September and quickly heeded these concerns. With this historic announcement, says Greenpeace Quebec, Parizeau has sided with the Cree people of Quebec and environmentalists including the Natural Resources Defence Council of Washington, DC, who have long campaigned to halt the project.

"The province has just saved itself over $13 billion and taken a giant step towards a balanced and coherent energy policy," said Francois Tanguay, of Greenpeace Quebec. "Premier Parizeau must take this opportunity and move Quebec's energy policy further in the right direction. With the money saved from Great Whale, Quebec will be able to invest in job creating energy efficiency programmes and renewables like wind power." Tanguay added: "Hydro Quebec's subsidies to energy intensive smelters through secret contracts have cost the Quebec taxpayers well over a billion dollars in the last six years alone." He noted Parizeau's acknowledgement that a power plant on the scale of the Great Whale complex was not needed and that falling energy demand had made it a high risk investment.

Hydro Quebec must now seek alternatives to supply new generation in years 2003 to 2008 when Great Whale was scheduled to enter operation. Public hearings for a revision of the Hydro Quebec Development Plan are currently underway. The PQ has expressed vigorous support for small scale renewable and sustainable energy technologies (Windpower Monthly, September 1994) and is actively stimulating a broad public debate on future appropriate energy sources.

Wind value recognised

Hydro Quebec network analysts calculate that wind power will be of unique and considerable value to the utility's largely hydroelectric system, since the large winter electricity heating needs "correlate naturally" with strong winter winds on the Gaspe Peninsula and elsewhere (Windpower Monthly, November 1994). The utility is technically modelling the system benefits of up to 7200 MW of wind in the province, which exceeds current present world nameplate wind capacity.

Also on November 18, Hydro Quebec announced the signing of a letter of understanding with Lam Chan Tho, owner of the Cap Chat experimental MW-scale Eole vertical-axis wind turbine, York Research Canada, and Energie Cap-Chat. The accord is part of the renegotiation of Hydro Quebec's existing contract for electricity from Eole. The new project, whose terms are now being negotiated, includes technical and economic feasibility studies and work to repair and recommission Eole and the installation of a 4 MW wind farm consisting of eight 500 kW Vestas wind turbines at the Eole site. The 64 metre diameter Eole turbine, originally 4 MW, was commissioned in 1983 but shut down in April 1993 due to a major bearing failure.

Kenetech Wind Energy, a subsidiary of Kenetech Corp. of California, also announced on November 18 that AXOR Group Inc, an important Quebec energy developer and engineering and construction firm, will become a partner in Kenetech's development of two 50 MW nameplate wind farms on the Gaspe by 1996. The joint effort conforms to the requirements of the December 1993 contract between Hydro Quebec and Kenetech which promotes technology transfer and local economic spin-offs. AXOR's interest in the project will be at least 40%.