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Wuskwatim facility in Manitoba nearing completion

The first generating unit at Manitoba Hydro's 200-MW Wuskwatim plant on the Burntwood River in northern Manitoba was officially opened in July.

The C$1.35 billion (US$1.33 billion project), which is a joint development of Manitoba Hydro and the Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation, will eventually feature three generators. Work on the facility began in August 2006, and all three units are expected to be in operation by the end of 2012, the company says.

Power from the plant will be fed into Manitoba Hydro's grid and be used exclusively within the province. Wuskwatim is the province's first new hydroelectric facility in two decades.

Lower Churchill project continues to face challenges

In the latest development at the controversial 3,064-MW Lower Churchill project, a Canadian aboriginal group vowed to halt progress on the facility unless the government of Newfoundland and Labrador gives it a share of the profits.

The NunatuKavut First Nation, an Inuit group in southern Labrador, claims ownership of lands along parts of the Churchill River where the facility would be constructed, although these claims are not recognized by the federal government.

While Newfoundland Premier Kathy Dunderdale told Canadian sources the province had already signed all required deals with aboriginal groups - notably the Innu Nation - she said the NunatuKavut are not included.

NanatuKavut representatives said lawsuits or a physical disruption of construction might be possible.

The Lower Churchill project has been controversial since its conception. Environmental groups challenged an approval awarded by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency in March 2012. In this instance, Sierra Club Canada and Grand Riverkeeper Labrador Inc. filed a judicial review application arguing the initial environmental assessment is incomplete.

The C$6.2 billion (US$6.1 billion) Lower Churchill project being developed by Nalcor Energy includes the 824-MW Muskrat Falls plant and the eventual 2,250-MW Gull Island plant on the Churchill River in Labrador, plus transmission links to Newfoundland Island, Nova Scotia and New England. The governments of Newfoundland and Labrador and of Nova Scotia agreed in 2011 to divide up business and employment opportunities from construction of Muskrat Falls and the transmission links.

Nova Scotia's Utility and Review Board is to examine the Maritime Link to ensure it is the best long-term option for Nova Scotians and to help meet future renewable energy targets. Provincial legislation passed earlier this year calls for the board to review costs to determine if the project is in the best interest of ratepayers.

In addition, the Nunatsiavut government is teaming up with a group of Canadian scientists to see how the Muskrat Falls plant could affect the livelihood of Inuit in Newfoundland and Labrador.

The Nunatsiavut say the work will be done using scientific, peer-reviewed research methods and seeks to forecast how the hydroelectric project will affect the Inuit lifestyle. Nunatsiavut officials say they hope Nalcor Energy will also participate in the review.

Hydro could help develop Ontario job market

Hydroelectricity could help create new jobs in Ontario's industrial sector following implementation of the province's Industrial Electricity Incentive program.

The plan, implemented by Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, will allow eligible companies to qualify for reduced power rates if they create new jobs and bring investments to the province.

Ontario exports its surplus hydroelectric power to neighboring provinces and states, so the program would be a revenue-generating venture, officials say.

Energy Minister Chris Bentley says details concerning rates will be announced in the fall and that it should begin at the start of 2013.

New companies must make a minimum investment of about US$250 million to be eligible, while existing companies must show significant expansions to their operations.

Innergex moves forward on acquisition of assets

Canadian power producer Innergex Renewable Energy signed a purchase and sale agreement in July that will give it a 70% interest in Hydromega Group's 40.6-MW Magpie facility. The run-of-river plant, located in the Minganie Regional County Municipality in northeastern Quebec, began commercial operations in 2007.

Energy produced at Magpie is sold to Hydro-Quebec, as per a 25-year power-purchase agreement.

Innergex says the acquisition will cost about US$30 million, plus an additional $51.5 million in assumed project-level debt. The deal will be financed by a $122.46 million private placement of common shares.

The corporation and Hydromega have also signed a letter of intent expressing Innergex's interest in six other sites, including 30.5-MW Sainte-Marguerite in Quebec; and Big Beaver Falls, Camp Three Rapids, White Otter Falls, Old Woman Falls and Dokis in Ontario.

Sainte-Marguerite is already in operation, with its output sold to Hydro-Quebec.

Four of the Ontario projects are under construction and will combine for a total capacity of 22 MW when completed. Big Beaver Falls and Camp Three Rapids are expected to be complete by the end of this year, with White Otter Falls and Old Woman Falls in operation by spring 2013. Construction of Dokis is expected to begin by the end of 2012, with commissioning in 2014. Power produced by all five plants will be sold to the Ontario Power Authority under 40-year power purchase agreements.

Also in July, Innergex announced its affiliate closed C$168.5 million (US$166.28 million) in financing for the 49.9-MW Kwoiek Creek project on Kwoiek Creek in British Columbia.

Kwoiek Creek Resources, a joint venture of Innergex II Power Trust and the Kanaka Bar Indian Band, is developing the run-of-river project on the tributary to the Fraser River. Construction began in late 2011 after 18 years of planning and preparation.

The non-recourse and term project financing carries a fixed interest rate of 5.075%. It is to convert to a 39-year term loan upon start of the project's commercial operation and will amortize over 36 years starting three years from then.

Electricity will be sold to BC Hydro under a 40-year contract resulting from the utility's 2006 call for tenders for clean energy. An 80-km-long transmission line is being built between the project and the Highland Valley substation near Ashcroft.

In addition, in June, Innergex signed a purchase and sale agreement that would give the company ownership of two hydro plants in British Columbia. Owned by the Capital Power Corporation, the 7.2-MW Brown Lake and 33-MW Miller Creek facilities would raise Innergex's total hydro portfolio to about 920 MW.

The Brown Lake facility was commissioned in 1996. Power produced by the plant will be sold to BC Hydro until 2016, as per a 20-year power purchase agreement. Meanwhile, the Miller Creek project was completed in 2003 and also has a 20-year power purchase agreement with BC Hydro, which waived its right of first refusal on the facility in late June.

Innergex says the purchase price of the two plants will be about C$68.3 million (US$67.4 million).

Boralex acquires 22-MW Gold Bridge plant

International energy producer Boralex Inc. has signed a binding letter of agreement with Sequoia Energy Inc. that will give the company control of a 22-MW project being constructed near Gold Bridge, British Columbia.

Boralex says the Gold Bridge project will require an investment of about US$60 million, but all of the plant's main permits have been secured.

"We are very pleased to announce this new hydroelectric project to further drive development in British Columbia," says Boralex President and Chief Executive Officer Patrick Lemaire. The company will establish a permanent group within the province, he says, further helping develop Boralex's presence within North America.

Boralex and Sequoia will cooperate through commercial operation, ensuring that stakeholder and First Nations are satisfied.

The acquisition is subject to the signing of formal terms, agreements and closing conditions. Boralex says it expects to close on the plant in fall 2012, with financing to be in place before the end of the year. Commissioning of the facility is expected before the end of 2013.

Boralex's hydro portfolio includes an installed capacity of more than 500 MW spread across Canada, the northeastern U.S. and France.

Hydro Ottawa increases stake in Chaudiere Falls project

Canadian paper company Domtar is selling its hydropower assets on Chaudiere Island to Hydro Ottawa's renewable energy subsidiary, Energy Ottawa.

The C$44.5 million (US$43.8 million) deal includes three hydroelectric stations that provide a combined output of 38 MW, plus Domtar's 38.3% share in a consortium that owns the Chaudiere Falls Dam.

Energy Ottawa now owns six of the seven generating stations at Chaudiere Falls, which has been in operation since 1891. Hydro-Quebec owns the remaining one, although the energy produced there is purchased by Energy Ottawa under a long-term power purchase agreement.

The company says its units at Chaudiere Falls could eventually be expanded to 60 MW.

Clean Energy BC elects three board members

Clean Energy BC elected three members to its board of directors in June.

New members are Dan Woznow of Calgary, Alberta-based AltaGas and Colleen Giroux-Schmidt of Longueuil, Quebec-based Innergex. In addition, Mike Wise, owner of Vancouver, British Columbia-based Geowise Engineering, was re-elected to the board.

Outgoing board members are Caroline Findlay, a partner in the Vancouver-based Blakes law firm, and Craig Aspinall, owner of Craig Aspinall & Associates, a Vancouver-based public relations firm. Both had served on Clean Energy BC's board for three years.

Clean Energy BC was formed to enable independent power producers in British Columbia to work collectively to overcome the common barriers to development. Giroux-Schmidt leads the association's committee on hydro.

BC Hydro upgrading transmission grid with ABB

Canadian utility BC Hydro has contracted power and automation technology group ABB to increase the transmission capacity of new and existing power lines.

The deal, worth about C$55.8 million (US$55 million), will see ABB design, supply, install and commission three series capacitors at two facilities.

BC Hydro's decision to increase its capacity comes largely in response to an anticipated surge of demand in the coming decades.

BC Hydro has nearly 11,000 MW of total capacity spread across 31 facilities.

Manitoba Hydro headquarters earns LEED Platinum certification

Manitoba Hydro's new headquarters has been recognized by the Canada Green Building Council for its sustainable and environmentally-friendly design.

Manitoba Hydro says it originally hoped its 22-story building in downtown Winnipeg would qualify for the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) "Gold" status, but the 3-year-old building was given LEED's highest rating, "Platinum."

"To meet such a high standard, the design team had to take the extra step and look at innovative design and construction strategies," says Canada Green Building Council President Thomas Mueller. "This resulted in exceptional energy performance."

The utility says the 700,000-square-foot office uses about 30% of the amount of electricity consumed by similarly sized buildings, resulting in annual savings of about C$513,300 (US$512,800).

"Our main intent was to demonstrate that creating the most energy efficient, sustainable building also meant providing the highest quality of space," says Tom Akerstream, Manitoba Hydro's energy adviser and manager of head office facilities.

The building was designed by a consortium that included Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg Architects, Smith Carter Architects and Transsolar.

Manitoba Hydro owns and operates 14 hydroelectric plants with a total capacity of about 5,000 MW.


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