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Boralex CEO confident in French business despite wind farm permit cancellation

Boralex Inc. President and CEO Patrick Lemaire expressed confidence in its growing operations in France despite a court canceling the company's construction permits for what would be its largest wind project in the country.

On July 7, the Administrative Tribunal of Rennes canceled the construction permits for the 51-MW Moulins du Lohan project in northwestern France based on its subjective risk assessment of landscape damage to the Lanouée forest, halting construction of the project. However, Lemaire said in Boralex's Aug. 9 second-quarter earnings call that he is confident the company can get the decision reversed.

"The appeal will be heard by an administrative court of appeals as opposed to this lower court decision that was issued by a tribunal that is generally not in favor of wind projects," he said. "And the other court … let's say from past judgment, is more in favor of wind projects."

Moulins du Lohan was expected to come online in 2018. The appeal could take between 12 and 18 months, which would push back the operation date as late as 2020, Lemaire said. He added that management does not expect the company to incur high legal fees from appealing the denied permit request.

Boralex intends to commission four wind farms in France with a combined capacity of 87 MW by the end of the year, according to an Aug. 9 press release. It currently has 42 renewable energy projects in the country, including 36 wind projects in operation.

Lemaire said he expects to have another project announced by the end of the year in France as the company works on the permitting and approval processes for several potential projects. He sees President Emmanuel Macron's Cabinet, specifically Energy Minister Nicolas Hulot, as "very positive towards renewables." Hulot told French-language publication Ouest France in July that the country needs to simplify the bidding process for renewable energy, adding that there is an urgency to develop more renewable energy projects.

Clean energy bid

Boralex is participating in a bid for Massachusetts' clean energy request for proposals for hydropower and renewable energy. Boralex would build a 300-MW hydro-backed wind farm at its Seigneurie de Beaupré wind energy site in the Greater Québec City area with Gaz Métro LP as part of transmission developer TDI New England's proposal for its 1,000-MW New England Clean Power link. If Boralex is not successful in the Massachusetts RFP, it will repurpose the bid for another RFP, Lemaire said.

"If there are other opportunities, we'll learn from our bid that we submitted," he said.