Lots of bids inBritish Columbia -- Nineteen wind farms proposed

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Independent power producers in Canada flooded BC Hydro with proposals in the west coast utility's recently closed request for proposals for new clean power supply, providing bids for more than three times the energy it is seeking. The utility received proposals from 43 companies for 69 projects with a combined capacity of about 7000 MW and a total firm energy output of more than 17,000 GWh a year.

BC Hydro wants to buy up to 5000 GWh a year of firm energy, bid either on a seasonal or hourly basis, and will also buy the rest of a project's non-firm production at either a fixed price or market-referenced price.

When the request for proposals (RFP) was released, industry observers predicted wind and run-of-river hydro projects would dominate and the numbers bear that out. Nineteen of the proposals are for wind farms with total firm energy of about 8000 GWh a year, while 45 are hydro projects with a firm energy total of about 8700 GWh a year. The remaining four proposals include two waste heat projects, one biogas and one biomass project.

BC Hydro's Dag Sharman says the utility is pleased with the response. "The high level of competition will enable us to get the best possible deal for our ratepayers." The deadline for submissions was November 25. The utility will spend the first months of 2009 evaluating the bids and expects to announce the winners in June.

Offshore with Siemens

BC Hydro did not release any project details, but some of the bidding companies have done so. For the first time in Canada an offshore project proposal was among the responses to an RFP, submitted by Vancouver-based NaiKun Wind Energy Group. The company wants to build a 396 MW wind farm in Hecate Strait off the east coast of British Columbia's Queen Charlotte Islands, the first of five phases of an eventual 1750 MW facility. "We are confident of our success given that our proposal features a superior wind resource, proven technology, collaborative partnerships, an experienced team and strong public support," says CEO Paul Taylor.

NaiKun's resource data shows high mean annual wind speeds at the site of 9.5-10 m/s at the project site. The company recently announced it has signed a letter of intent to negotiate the purchase of up to 110 wind turbines from Siemens Wind Power for the project and has also signed a memorandum of understanding with Siemens Canada Limited for the transmission components of the project.

Vancouver's Finavera Renewables bid four wind power projects with a combined capacity of 295 MW. The company is hoping a financing agreement with GE Energy Financial Services (GEEFS) will give it a leg up in today's tight credit market. Under the terms of the agreement, Finavera will develop four projects in the Peace region in northeast British Columbia and pay permitting, public consultation and environmental assessment certification costs for them. Should any win a power purchase contract, GEEFS would have the exclusive right to fund or arrange equity and debt financing.

GEEFS has amassed a $4 billion portfolio of renewable energy projects worldwide and a power purchase contract through Finavera would mark its entry into Canada's wind energy market. But it is not the company's only foray into British Columbia. It is backing C$4 billion worth of bids in run-of-river hydro projects developed by Vancouver's Plutonic Power Corporation. The two companies are already partners in a 196 MW, C$660 million hydro project that won a contract in BC Hydro's 2006 call.

Protection extended

Another notable wind power bidder is Earthfirst Canada, a Calgary developer that has run into financial troubles building the province's first wind farm and obtained court protection from its creditors in November (Windpower Monthly, December 2008). That protection, originally scheduled to expire December 4, was last month extended to January 30 while the company pursues the sale of all or a substantial part of its assets. According to court documents, consultants hired by the company to review its alternatives set a deadline of December 18 to receive non-binding letters of interest in those assets "with a view to selecting a successful bidder in early January 2009 and closing a transaction shortly thereafter."

Construction of the first phase of EarthFirst's 144 MW Dokie 1 wind project is continuing and the company submitted a proposed 156 MW Dokie expansion to BC Hydro's current RFP along with its 62 MW Wartenbe and 113 MW Sundance projects. The Dokie expansion and the Wartenbe projects are both fully permitted.

Another wind developer to announce its participation in BC Hydro's RFP is Edmonton's Epcor Utilities, which has a 145 MW project in Tumber Ridge in the north-eastern part of the province.

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