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SaskPower in talks with Algonquin to relocate rejected wind farm

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SaskPower in talks with Algonquin to relocate rejected wind farm

SaskPower, the province-owned electricity utility, is intalks with power-plant developer Algonquin Power & Utilities Corp. to relocate aproposed wind farm that was shot down by regulators because of the hazard itposed to migratory birds.

The Chaplin Wind Project was the first in the province toundergo scrutiny by the Saskatchewan Environmental Assessment Review Panel. Therejection by thepanel came more than four years after SaskPower gave Algonquin approval tobuild the 77-turbine project underpinned by a 25-year power purchase agreement.Chaplin was expected to cost C$355 million and to be in production by December2016. The agreement to build the facility followed a request for qualificationsfrom wind energy developers in 2009.

The reopening of the agreement without a new RFQ has raisedeyebrows among opposition politicians and other developers, but SaskPower saidthe amended deal could expedite the process and save money. The rulingSaskatchewan Party plansto get 50% of the province's energy from renewables by 2030.

"The proponent has identified an alternative site,which SaskPower is now considering," SaskPower spokeswoman Heather Johnsonsaid in an email. "SaskPower has approval to negotiate amendments to theinitial agreements with Algonquin on this project. This approach respects thetime and money invested in this project's development so far, and will alsohelp the project move forward quickly."

SaskPower chose Algonquin to develop the 177-MW wind farm inthe southern portion of the province in 2012 as part of its Green Options plan,which was begun in 2009. Those plans changed when an environmental assessmentcompleted in September identified criticism of Chaplin's location near amigratory bird path. The panel conducting the 2015 assessment received 137submissions, all but one expressing concern about migratory birds, according toa government statement.

Saskatchewan's approach to rule making has hampereddevelopment of wind power projects in the province, according to members of theOfficial Opposition.

"This case should stand as a good reminder for theSaskatchewan Party government that proper collaboration and assessments need tohappen, so that projects like this can move forward," said New DemocraticParty Environment and SaskPower Critic Cathy Sproule. "It also serves as areminder that had the [government] followed through with its own legislationfrom 2009 to create a Green Technology Fund, the province would be seeing morejobs and development in renewable resources today."

An Algonquin official told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.Sept. 19 that the proposed project met all the technical guidelines laid out bySaskPower and that the company expected to select a new site for the plant overthe next two months. The company did not respond to a request for comment.

SaskPower said in a 2012 news release that the Algonquinproject was selected from 26 proposed by 15 different suppliers. It did notrelease details of the PPA. The New Democrats' Sproule said her party supportsthe province's goal to increase use of renewable power, but will keep an eye onthe process it uses.

"We will be monitoring this case closely as it movesforward and will be working to ensure we get our natural resources to market ina sustainable and responsible way, as well as develop our renewable resourcesas efficiently as possible," Sproule said.