Another big call for bids on the way -- Manitoba calls for 1000 MW

The Canadian province of Manitoba announced last month that it aims to build 1000 MW of wind power over the next ten years. The publicly owned utility, Manitoba Hydro, took its "first formal step" in the process and late last month issued a request for expressions of interest (EOI) for new wind power capacity.

The province and Manitoba Hydro want to hear from power producers interested in developing projects larger than 10 MW. It expects to create a separate process to acquire an additional 50 MW from smaller, community-based projects.

The EOI, which seeks responses already by January 20, is designed to provide planners with information on the timing and location of potential projects, capabilities of proponents, levels of community involvement and wind turbine manufacturing opportunities. Manitoba's first wind project, the 103 MW St Leon facility currently under construction on rural farmland 150 kilometres southwest of the capital city of Winnipeg, has "captured the public's imagination," says Energy Minister Dave Chomiak. "We want to be sure-footed as we proceed to harness the wind and maximize the benefits of this natural, renewable resource."

Manitoba currently has 5000 MW of reservoir-based hydroelectric generation and another 500 MW of thermal generation, enough to meet the province's power needs to 2020. It also trades extensively with neighbouring markets, particularly south into the United States, exporting as much as 50% of the power it generates.

Export to United States

The province sees wind generation as a way to maximise its export opportunities. Because wind power production is at its highest in winter, when demand is at its peak and water flows into the reservoirs are at their lowest, wind generation can allow the utility to store more water behind its dams to be dispatched when it is more valuable to do so. The reservoirs can be used to "reshape" wind power for export as well.

The ability to store more water is also an advantage in low water or drought years. "They are looking at an alternative source of energy to offset thermal usage, which they do call upon when they are in drought conditions and which can be quite expensive for them," Diana Hurdowar-Castro of Synexus Global Inc says. Synexus Global conducted a system integration study for Manitoba Hydro.

The energy ministry's Jim Crone estimates there are between 25 and 30 wind power developers active in the province. "It has actually become a bit of a wind rush in southern Manitoba," he says. The province, he adds, has learned a lot about its wind resource over the last couple of years. "We found our wind regime is actually better than we expected and the decent wind is more dispersed over southern Manitoba, which bodes well I think." Canadian Wind Energy Association president Robert Hornung says he expects a "very strong response" to the EOI from the wind industry.

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