New plant sells commercial power -- Vision grows

A new Canadian wind farm located in Alberta is now in operation, and its owner expects to increase the facility's capacity next year. Vision Quest Windelectric of Calgary's 10.5 MW facility consists of 15 new Vestas 660 kW turbines sited along the Castle River, and one 600 kW machine installed earlier.

Since 1997, including the Castle River project, Vision Quest has accumulated 13 MW of wind capacity from 20 utility scale turbines harvesting the winds spilling down the eastern slopes of the Canadian Rockies, but until now the installations have been scattered across a number of sites. Vice president of operations Mike Bourns says the smaller installations allowed Vision Quest to explore wind resources at a number of locations. "Now we're experiencing some economy of scale because we've gone from installing machines in pairs to doing something larger," says Bourns. "The other thing we're noticing is that time has increased community awareness and acceptance. I've got a drawer full of resumes because of this project. People are really keen."

People keen on wind power is the story of Vision Quest's success. Castle River is the country's third and smallest wind farm, but Vision Quest is the only company to achieve large scale wind production with green power sales. While M&N Windpower's 100 MW Le Nordais project in Quebec and Canadian Hydro Developer's 22 MW Cowley Ridge site, also in Alberta, are supported by government programs, Vision Quest's capacity is distributed by a provincial marketer to individual consumers choosing to buy wind.

"The difference is we've entered into the market at a time when it's done on a competitive basis, where you have to create your own markets for premium products like green energy," says Bourns. "That's where we're coming from, and Vision Quest is pretty confident this is the way of the future, certainly in the short term, as far as power generation goes."

Vision Quest's understanding of the generation industry was augmented recently when Canada's largest investor-owned power producer, TransAlta Corporation, purchased a C$5 million share of the company. The financial infusion will help pay for the Castle River turbines, and ongoing collaboration between the two companies may help the wind power developer with its efforts to expand into other parts of the country. While Bourns won't elaborate on Vision Quest's ongoing efforts to sell green power in Ontario, he says more turbines are planned for the Castle River wind farm.

"We're definitely going to be installing more machines here next year," he says. "When and how many we haven't nailed down yet. I guess I can say we are happily looking forward to the future."

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