Atlantic Canada’s largest wind farm opens

WEST CAPE, PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND - A new 99-megawatt wind farm officially opened at West Cape, P.E.I., but it won't mean a whole lot more renewable energy available on the Island.

Ninety per cent of the energy from the West Cape Wind Farm, built by the European company GDF Suez, will be exported to New England, with the remainder being sold to the Summerside utility.

The project is not without benefits for the Island. Farmers are leasing their land to the company, and the government receives a royalty, much like the cut other provinces get for oil and gas ¬ó though it won't say how much that royalty is. P.E.I. Energy Minister Richard Brown would like to see another benefit.

"We're interested in securing some of that power for our own domestic use," Brown said.

"We feel by going with a big project and including a domestic component in it, that we'll get a better price for Islanders, and that's what it's about." The ribbon cutting for the wind farm brought top executives from GDF Suez, and Brown took the opportunity to talk to them about where the electricity from future projects might go.

Dirk Beeuwsaert of GDF Suez said his company is willing to talk.

"For us it's also very important to have a very good relationship with the communities we are working in," he said.

But Beeuwsaert also pointed out that projects like the West Cape Wind Farm are huge investments. The $200-million farm is the most expensive project on P.E.I. since the Confederation Bridge. The 55 wind turbines produce enough electricity to power 25,000 homes.

The first priority for GDF Suez on these projects is to make money, company executives have said, not provide local communities with cheap power.

The New Brunswick government also recently threw some cold water on P.E.I.'s wind power aspirations. It said companies can no longer take its transmission system for granted, suggesting businesses could find shipping energy from P.E.I. to the big markets in New England will get more expensive. Suez executives said that could affect future investment on the Island.


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