Mega project but cautious minister

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A Toronto wind developer is teaming up with the investment arm of the Labrador Metis Nation (descendents of aboriginal women and European men) to build a C$2.5 billion, 1000 MW wind project near the massive Churchill Falls hydroelectric generating station in central Labrador. Ventus Energy Inc and Metis Energy, a subsidiary of Metis Development Corporation, have created a limited partnership to develop the project. Pending regulatory approval, says Ventus CEO John Douglas, construction could begin in 2007. The project, called the Height of Lands Wind Park, will be built in phases over three years.

Negotiations with potential customers for the project's output, estimated to be more than 3 TWh a year, are underway. The partnership has also had preliminary discussions with native Innu in the area, the province's monopoly utility and the provincial government. It plans to conduct public consultations throughout the province beginning this month.

All may not go as the sponsors hope, however. Neither the Labrador government nor government-owned Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro are supporting the project. "I want to make it clear that there is no arrangement between the province and this partnership for the development of this wind project, and government is not prepared to see the project proceed at this time," says Ed Byrne, the province's minister of natural resources.

Byrne says the government is in the process of developing an energy strategy that will set out a framework for policy decisions on how the province's energy sources are developed. "There exists tremendous opportunity for the provincial government, through Hydro, to lead the development of major wind projects in this province that would lead to cost effective power for all ratepayers, as well as the potential to export power at a financial benefit to the province," he says. "At this point we need to keep all of those options available."

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