Huge offshore plant in Canada waters -- ABB and Vancouver newcomer

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A wind industry newcomer based in Vancouver, Uniterre Resources Ltd, has teamed up with European power technology colossus ABB and declared plans to build a 700 MW offshore wind project along Canada's Pacific coast. The announcement comes in the same month that ABB cancelled its wind technology program (story below).

Uniterre and ABB have submitted development applications for the giant wind plant to the Canadian government and the province of British Columbia. Pending the outcome of a planned feasibility study, they hope to start construction of the Nai Kun Wind Farm in 2004. "We are at the beginning of the beginning," says Michel Filion of ABB in Canada. Uniterre approached ABB because the Swiss company has the "technical capacity" to undertake the mega-project, he adds. But ABB, he emphasises, "will have to see the profitability" prior to making an investment.

In the shallow waters of Hecate Strait on the extreme northeast tip of Queen Charlotte Islands, the proposed site is bestowed with offshore winds averaging 8.6 m/s. It is also very isolated and a submarine cable will be required to connect Nai Kun to the mainland and the BC Hydro transmission grid. Specific customers for the power have yet to be identified, but Filion speculates industrial consumers, the provincial utility or perhaps customers outside the province will be interested. The partners believe both the site's resources and the potential of the marketplace justify the scale of the development. "In order to make this profitable we'll need a significant amount of energy," says Filion.

Uniterre Resources president Michael Altman is also confident the market in British Columbia, neighbouring Alberta and the northwest United States is ready to receive a project of this size. It's "an excellent opportunity," he says, for Canada to make a major step up in developing alternative energy. "The energy market is already demanding green power and if Canada can supply that need with cost effective energy, we all benefit," he says.

Uniterre Resources is a resource development company traded on the Canadian Venture Exchange. It holds gold and silver mining claims in British Columbia as well as "small interests" in oil and gas in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Texas. ABB, headquartered in Switzerland with 160,000 employees in more than 100 countries, focuses on the distribution and application of electrical energy, automation technology and building automation. In the wind industry, it is a major component supplier.

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