Saturday, March 11, 2006

63 Turbines = Power for 40,000 Homes

Way to go, 'toba!!

ST. LEON -- The winds of change are blowing in Manitoba.

All 63 turbines at the province's first wind farm are now turning, capturing enough wind energy to power about 40,000 homes.

"When these things are turning, we're making money, you're making money and we're all happy," said Dave Kerr, the director of AirSource and Algonquin Power Income Fund, the private sector company that developed the farm.

The first generator started putting out power last April and the 63rd one was up and running last week.

The St. Leon wind farm is the first independent power project in Manitoba, and is now yielding 99 megawatts of power, Kerr said.

A partnership with Manitoba Hydro means all the energy captured by the turbines flows into the power grid and is either exported or consumed in the province.

"Algonquin and Manitoba Hydro are working together in this pioneering project to integrate this electricity into our system," said Vic Schroeder, chairman of Manitoba Hydro.

The $210-million project in south-central Manitoba will result in $100 million in expenditures, $30 million in taxes and $9 million in rental payments to land owners.

Kerr said the partnership between AirSource and the provincially-owned utility has been very rewarding.

"There's always growing pains but this has been a very successful partnership with Manitoba Hydro," said Kerr, noting all the money to develop the farm came from private sources except an incentive grant from the federal government.

Energy Minister Dave Chomiak said the province will be home to many more of the 80-metre windmills during the next decade.

"There's no question, we put out a proposal for another 1,000 megawatts of wind to be developed over 10 years," said Chomiak. "We've had an overwhelming response to that."

Chomiak said there were enough wind farm proposals from the private sector to harvest 10,000 megawatts of power.

Landowners renting land for wind farm development stand to profit handsomely, said Chomiak.

"It's literally a cash crop," the minister said.

"As a native of St. Leon I'm very proud to be standing here today near the piece of land which is the highest point of Pembina Mountain and is owned by my dad," said Brigitte Martel, 19.

She said the wind farm is creating opportunity for young people.

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