March 20, 2006

First Manitoba wind farm begins delivering power

Ceremonies in St Leon, Manitoba marked the completed construction by AirSource Power of the 63 turbines in the province's first-ever wind farm. Located in southwest Manibota, the 99-megawatt (MW) wind project, which took one year to build, has begun delivering power to Manitoba Hydro will reach full commercial operation in the next few weeks. Over its operating life, the $210-million project will result in $100 million in operational expenditures, $30 million in provincial and municipal taxes and $9 million in local landholder payments.

Provincial Energy, Science and Technology Minister Dave Chomiak took advantage of the event to report the results of an invitation by the province and Manitoba Hydro for expressions of interest (EOI) in harvesting 1,000 MW of wind power over the next decade.

The invitation yielded 36 responses from 43 proponents, including wind developers, First Nations, communities, turbine manufacturers and consultants. Projects were proposed throughout Manitoba, some as far north as Churchill.

Some of the proposals were more advanced, providing very specific details, while others were broad expressions of interest indicating only a desire to develop wind. Chomiak noted that the responses specified a total of 75 proposed project sites, with 11 projects proposed for locations yet to be determined. A range of project sizes was proposed totalling approximately 10,000 MW.

"The EOI response has exceeded our expectations in terms of this preliminary showing of interest by wind developers, communities, First Nations, turbine manufacturers and financial institutions," said Chomiak, adding, "This is a strong indication that we can meet our future goal of 1,000 MW as long as projects are economically and technically sound."

In other clean energy initiatives, the province has fulfilled a commitment made in its 2006 budget by eliminating all provincial taxes on Manitoba-produced pure biodiesel. "The expanded biodiesel tax advantage builds on the biodiesel action plan announced in November designed to make biodiesel part of Manitoba's clean energy plan along with hydro, wind, ethanol and geothermal," Chomiak said.

"The elimination of the tax on biodiesel further demonstrates our government's commitment to find innovative solutions to the issues of climate change and rural economic development," said Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives Minister Rosann Wowchuk.

Effective immediately, the province will cease to collect both the road tax and provincial sales tax on pure biodiesel that meets the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) fuel-quality standard. The incentive will remain in place for five years to give the industry time to grow. The removal of these taxes provides an 11.5-cent-per-litre advantage over regular diesel and is in addition to the four-cent-per-litre tax break offered by the federal government. The tax advantage applies to the biofuel (ASTM) portion of biodiesel blends.

The announcement more than doubles the 5.5-cent-per-litre biodiesel tax advantage, which is a cornerstone of Manitoba's biodiesel action plan. Other activities to implement the action plan have included:

* release of a new $1.5-million support program for biodiesel production in Manitoba, supported by the federal government under the Opportunities Envelope Program administered by Natural Resources Canada;

* appointment of an independent biodiesel board to make recommendations to the government on the support program; and

* establishment of the biodiesel office to co-ordinate government activities across departments and to provide the public with a one-stop information hub on biodiesel.

Other elements of the action plan currently under development include:

* establishing a Manitoba-based biodiesel fuel-quality testing centre;

* developing a preference policy for Manitoba Transportation and Government Services for use of biodiesel in its fleet vehicles;

* conducting research on feedstocks and alternative markets for biodiesel co-products;

* studying the feasibility of using specified risk materials (SRMs) for biodiesel (SRMs are those components of livestock remains that are restricted due to BSE);

* working with private-sector fleet managers to encourage the use of biodiesel; and

* conducting a long-haul demonstration to demonstrate the benefits of biodiesel.

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