In a recent blog (http://ow.ly/P56j50MJf8j) we looked at the interest of First Nations in hydrogen developments. Now to take a look at First Nations and wind farms.
Wind energy is slowly growing across Canada. There are more than 6,000 turbine towers, and the Canada Energy Regulator says wind farms now produce about five per cent of our national electricity generation.
First Nations have been playing a supportive part — and in some cases launching partnerships.
Most of the 318 wind facilities in Canada are in Ontario, Quebec, and Alberta. Ten of the 318 were installed in 2022, with seven of those in Alberta. And 39 more onshore and offshore wind power projects are planned for the next 10 years, with a total value of $16 billion.
Wind energy across Canada grew by 7.1% (1 gigawatt) in 2022, to a new total of more than 15 gigawatts of “installed capacity.”
In theory, 15 GW of power is enough to power something like 18 million homes.
But be cautious when you read about how many homes a wind farm can power. The numbers assume the wind farm is running at full capacity. But Saskatchewan’s Sask Power utility points out: “Wind turbines don’t work well when there’s no wind, too much wind (for safety reasons) or when it’s too cold.” Or, it adds, on hot days, either.
So wind farms don’t generate full capacity at all times. In the U.S., they produce on average 42% of their full on-paper capacity. But often they may crank out only 25-30% of their capacity.
Alberta has 32 wind farms, and more are in the works.
Three notable wind projects in Alberta have 25% Indigenous equity.
- Ontario-based Potentia Renewables Inc. is building the 113-megawatt (MW) Stirling Wind project near Lethbridge, in partnership with the Paul First Nation. It’s looking forward to completion with 23 turbines late this year.
- Capstone Infrastructure Corp. is building the 48-MW Buffalo Atlee wind farm, with 13 turbines, in the Brooks region. It expects turbine deliveries to begin in July. Its partner is the Sawridge First Nation.
- EDF Renewables Canada partnered with the Kainai First Nation to build the 202-MW Cypress Wind Power project near Medicine Hat. It went into operation in 2022 with 48 turbines
These three wind projects also include opportunities for skills-training, jobs, and education for First Nations members.
Saskatchewan already has nine wind farms. And Renewable Energy Systems is partnering with the Cowessess First Nation on the proposed 200-megawatt Bekevar wind project near Kipling, in southeastern Saskatchewan. It would have 35 – 40 turbines and could power more than 90,000 Saskatchewan homes.
Manitoba’s government lists two wind farms, St. Joseph (which can at full capacity produce enough power for 50,000 homes) and St. Léon (which can supply the energy needs of over 40,000 homes). Neither mentions any First Nations involvement.
It’s hard to find out how many wind farms there are in Ontario. One source says 93. And another says Ontario has 2,663 wind turbines.
We do know that Ontario has six of Canada’s 10 biggest wind farms and Ontario gets some 7.6% of its electricity from wind turbines.
Ontario wind farms with First Nations involvement range from a tiny pioneer to the largest First Nation wind-energy partnership in Canada.
The tiny pioneer? The M’Chigeeng First Nations’ Mother Earth Renewable Energy project (MERE) on Manitoulin Island. The first independently Indigenous-owned wind farm in Ontario, it started up in 2012 with two 2-megawatt (MW) turbines.
MERE went on to partner 50-50 in Northland Power’s McLean’s Mountain Wind Farm project on Manitoulin Island. It opened in 2014 with 60 MW capacity.
And the No. 1 First Nation wind partnership in Canada is the Henvey Inlet Wind operation in Ontario.
The Henvey Inlet First Nation partnered with Pattern Canada to build and operate the 300-MW Henvey Inlet Wind site and its transmission line. It’s on reserve land on the northeast shore of Georgian Bay, some 90km south of Sudbury.
It has 87 turbines, went into operation in 2019, and could at full capacity produce enough power for 100,000 homes,
In Quebec, 43 wind farms have around 4 GW of capacity, and Hydro-Québec is looking for more.
Quebec’s Gaspé Peninsula has some of the strongest sustained winds in Canada and three Mi’gmaq communities are generating revenue through their Mesgi’g Ugju’s’n wind farm. (The name means “Big Wind” in Mi’gmaq.) Completed in 2016, it has 47 turbines, with installed capacity of 150 MW, and is expected to generate around $200 million for the three communities over 20 years.
A partnership of Boralex and two Indigenous communities are working toward the 200-MW Apuiat wind farm in the Côte-Nord region of Quebec near Port Cartier on the north shore of the St. Lawrence River. They look to begin construction this year and start up in late 2024.
New Brunswick has seven wind farms. Among them is the Wocawson Energy Project, near Sussex NB, built by the Neqotkuk First Nation. It has five turbines and installed capacity of 20 MW.
The Neqotkuk Nation is also partnering with Natural Forces Development to build the Burchill Wind project, 15 km southwest of Saint John. It will have 10 turbines and capacity of 42 MW and should be in operation soon.
PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND
Breezy PEI has eight wind farms, which produce about 25 percent of the province’s electricity. The Lennox Island First Nation now is working on plans for a wind farm with seven turbines.
Nova Scotia now has four wind farms and the provincial government wants five more in operation by 2025.
The five are the proposed Benjamins Mill Wind Farm in which the province’s 13 Mi’kmaw communities are partners; the Ellershouse III Wind Farm, being built by a joint venture of Potentia Renewables and Annapolis Valley First Nation; the Higgins Mountain Wind Farm with the Sipekne’katik Nation as a partner; the Sipekne’katik Nation’s Wedgeport Wind Farm; and the Weavers Mountain Wind farm in which the Glooscap First Nation is a partner.
And the Confederacy of Mainland Mi’kmaq in Nova Scotia is exploring the potential for offshore wind farms.
NEWFOUNDLAND and LABRADOR
Last April, the NL government lifted a longtime ban on wind development, and last July asked for “nomination submissions” for potential wind-energy projects. It soon got 31 of them. It then called for bids, with a deadline coming up on March 3 this year.
And Project Nujio’qonik in NL proposes to generate electricity from wind to power production of hydrogen/ammonia. The Qalipu First Nation aims to be a central player in Project Nujio’qonik.
Back in BC, we listed wind-power projects (some with First Nations involvement) in an earlier blog at http://ow.ly/i50Q50MJBEq
(Note: The list of wind farms above is not comprehensive.)
(Posted here 08 February 2023)