Quebec celebrates major milestone in passing 1 GW

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

When Invenergy Wind Canada’s 138.6 MW Le Plateau Wind Energy Centre started operations on Quebec’s Gaspé Peninsula in March, it marked a milestone for the province’s burgeoning wind power sector.

The project’s 60 Enercon E70 turbines pushed Quebec’s installed wind energy capacity past the 1,000 MW mark. It is a number, industry participants agree, that represents far more than just turbines in the ground.

“The political will to have wind be part of the generation mix and further the province’s participation in renewable energy is, I believe, really what we are celebrating,” says Frits de Kiewit, Invenergy’s director of business development for Canada.

The province embarked on what former Hydro-Quebec CEO André Caillé described as its “great adventure” in wind when it launched a request for proposals (RFP) for 1,000 MW in May 2003. The utility was already buying the output from a handful of wind farms located in the Gaspésie, but the government saw the opportunity to do much more, using a combination of long-term power purchases and local content requirements to bring jobs and investment to the economically depressed region. It followed up with two more RFPs that expanded the investment opportunity to the rest of the province, one in October 2005 for 2,000 MW and another in April 2009 for 500 MW from smaller-scale projects with equity participation by Quebec municipalities, co-operatives and First Nations groups.

“The strategy has had a tremendous impact on the economy of the region. Now on the Gaspé Peninsula and the County of Matane we are talking about over 1,000 jobs in wind,” says Frédéric Côté, general manager of Quebec’s TechnoCentre éolien. “We have large manufacturing facilities in place, and we have developed a local network of enterprises that have developed expertise in wind and are now exporting their products and services to other provinces and other countries.”

Today, in fact, the Gaspésie is a bright spot in Quebec’s economy. A recent study by the financial group Desjardins placed it among the top five regions in 2010 with an economic growth rate of 5 per cent, compared to 4.4 per cent for the province as a whole. Desjardins points to the wind industry as a key factor in that growth, and concludes that “activities related to wind power continue to carry the economy during 2011 and 2012.”

The province’s goal is to have 4 GW of wind on its system by 2015. By the time it gets there, according to a study commissioned by CanWEA, the industry will have attracted $10 billion in investment, generated more than $25 million a year in royalties and rents to landowners and municipalities, and created more than 38,000 jobs in project construction, equipment manufacturing, and operations and maintenance.

To read more of this story and browse through others, view the spring issue of WindSight here.