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Reality Check

RC-10: Do we produce wind energy in Manitoba?

Date Posted: June 4, 2011

The Manitoba government made "a commitment to 1,000 megawatts (MW) of wind generation over the next decade" in the 2005 throne speech. As of June 2011 Manitoba had two operational wind projects with 237 MW of combined wind generation capacity --less than 1/4 of the 2005 commitment with only.

The St. Leon Wind Energy LP - located west of the Red River close to the Manitoba- US border - became operational September 2007. The $200 million project consists of 63 turbines, with a generating capacity of 99MW. It received $30 million in federal subsidies. It is estimated that the project will generate $10 million in revenue for local landowners, $12 million in provincial sales tax, $14 million in income tax and $20 million in municipal property taxes, over 25 years.

The St. Joseph Wind Farm Inc. - also located close to the US-Manitoba border, and close to highway 75 - became operational January 2011. The 60 turbines, 138 MW project, was slated to be more than twice the size, but was scaled down following delays, withdrawals of financial backers, and changes in ownership. The project was only able to move forward with loan assistance from Manitoba Hydro. Under the arrangement the $345 million dollar project was funded with $95 million from Pattern Energy and a $250-260 million Manitoba Hydro loan. Repayments of the loan are deducted against what Manitoba Hydro power purchases.

In total eleven, wind energy projects, comprising 1491 MW of capacity, are licensed under Manitoba's Environment Act, yet only two projects above have power-purchase-agreements (PPAs) with Manitoba Hydro. Manitoba Hydro has a monopoly on energy generation in Manitoba, so wind energy projects cannot become operational without a PPA.

Local communities, including First Nations, situated in significant wind corridors, are seeking ways to put wind projects in place for their local economies. Experts consider it a high likelihood that North American power distribution will be decentralized, with more locally ' grown ' power. To date there is no 'feed in tariffs' in Manitoba where business owners and hmeowners add to the grid and are paid for their power. Other jurisdictions in Canada - including other publicly owned utilities - have feed in tariffs for cleaner energy generation. Manitoba needs to more aggressively pursue wind energy development. 'Back-metering' electricity, and a feed-in-tariff, would go a long way in helping Manitoba to meet its 100MW wind energy goal.

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