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Muskrat Falls project gets federal loan guarantee

The controversial 824-MW Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project in Newfoundland and Labrador moved one step closer to becoming a reality in late November as Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced a federal loan guarantee.

Support for the Muskrat Falls plant - promised by Harper through his election campaign in 2011 - is included in a term sheet that guarantees up to US$6.3 billion in debt over 35 to 40 years for financing of the project.

The guarantee will be managed by Natural Resources Canada, with the government acting as an advisor to ensure that "the support provided to the projects is financially responsible to Canadian taxpayers."

"I want to emphasize that this project is going to be a real game-changer for this province and this region," Harper said. "What the federal government is doing under this agreement is providing a loan guarantee at extremely low risk, and frankly, I think in the long term, zero cost to the taxpayers of Canada."

The $6.3 billion loan guarantee will lower borrowing costs for the US.4 billion hydropower project, although Newfoundland and Labrador will have to make other arrangements for the US$1.1 billion difference.

Metro Vancouver proposing hydro component for Cleveland Dam

A new water usage plan could introduce hydroelectric production to British Columbia's Capilano and Seymore watersheds, Metro Vancouver announces.

Metro Vancouver - an inter-municipal administrative body known formally as the Greater Vancouver Regional District - said seasonal excess rain could create generation opportunities.

Metro Vancouver said its first priority remains the supply of drinking water to the region but that the 58-year-old Cleveland Dam, which impounds Capilano Lake, could also be used for energy production.

Currently, excess water simply flows over the dam's spillway, although a 2010 program called the "Joint Water Use Plan for the Capilano and Seymour Watersheds" led Metro Vancouver to submit applications for a pair of hydropower projects to the Provincial Comptroller of Water Rights in December.

"At this point, we see a large number of potential environmental, social and operational benefits that would result from hydro power and related improvements," said Metro Vancouver utilities committee chairman Darrell Mussatto.

In addition to providing power generation, Metro Vancouver said the projects would also improve fish habitat. Currently, many fish falling over the Cleveland Dam spillway do not survive. Metro Vancouver said a fish capture and transport system would improve passage for steelhead trout and coho salmon.

Metro Vancouver did not specify the capacity of the hydroelectric component, how much the project might cost, or when it could begin.

Hydro important asset despite production dip, Boralex says

Renewable energy producer Boralex Inc. said dry weather in Quebec and the northeastern U.S. are to blame for the company's decreased revenues in the quarter ending Sept. 30, 2012.

The company reported US$16.2 million in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) on revenues of $33 million for the three-month period. In comparison, Boralex reported $16.7 million in EBITDA on $36.2 million in revenue for the same period in 2011.

Boralex notes, however, that the third quarter has traditionally been its weakest of the year due to the seasonal cycles of its two largest generating segments, wind and hydropower production.

"Despite the unfavorable weather conditions over the past six months, our hydroelectric power stations are excellent long-term prospects and remain major contributors to our bottom line, generating over $27 million in EBITDA for the first nine months of 2012," says Boralex President and Chief Executive Officer Patrick Lemaire.

Boralex closed its acquisition of the 22-MW Jamie Creek plant near Gold Bridge, British Columbia, in October of last year. This plant will operate under a 40-year power purchase agreement with BC Hydro.

The company's generating portfolio includes 15 hydropower plants spread across Quebec, British Columbia, and Ontario in Canada and New York in the U.S.

BC Hydro moves forward on 1,000-MW Mica expansion

Canadian utility BC Hydro is advancing work on a 1,000-MW expansion of the 1,085-MW Mica project on the Columbia River in British Columbia.

BC Hydro began construction in 2011 to add two 500-MW units to the existing Mica Dam at a cost of C$1 billion (US$965 million). Companies working on the project include Peter Kiewit Infrastructure Co. as the civil work contractor, Konecranes America as the supplier of two turbine hall cranes and a construction crane, and Andritz Hydro as supplier of the two Francis turbine-generators.

In addition, BC Hydro solicited bids in November for design and supply of two 600-volt motor control centers type unit distribution switchboards for the auxiliary equipment. The incoming power supply to the switchboard will be fed from the 600-volt switchgear located in the powerhouse service bay.


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