August 2, 2012 - 11:01am BY JOANN ALBERSTAT BUSINESS REPORTER
Two of Nova Scotia’s leading family businesses are teaming up to build what amounts to Nova Scotia’s largest wind farm.
Oxford Frozen Foods, controlled by the Braggs, and Minas Basin Pulp and Power, controlled by the Jodreys, each got the green light Thursday to build about $200 million in wind projects on a massive Lunenburg County site.
The two ventures, which are called South Canoe Wind, are among three energy projects awarded contracts by the province’s renewable electricity administrator.
The third winner is a roughly $25-million wind farm near Canso that is led by the Municipality of the District of Guysborough.
Nova Scotia Power is a minority partner in all three projects. Provincial renewable energy rules allow the utility to own up to 49 per cent of projects proposed by independent power producers.
The three wind farms are expected to start producing electricity for the grid starting in January 2015.
South Canoe includes a 78-megawatt project led by Oxford, as well as a neighbouring 24-megawatt development led by Minas Basin.
The two are on 6,000 hectares of land in a non-residential area between Chester and Windsor. Most of the site is owned by the Hantsport pulp and power company, also in the hydroelectric business.
“We’re ecstatic about this,” Scott Travers, Minas Basin’s president and chief executive officer, said in an interview.
“It’s great to be building one of the biggest wind farms in Nova Scotia.”
A total of 30 to 50 turbines will be on the sites, depending on turbine size.
Rick Cecchetto, chief financial officer of the Bragg Group of Companies, said the two wind farms plan to work together and share some infrastructure.
“We’re excited to be in the business. We think it’s going to be a nice addition to what Oxford Frozen Foods does. It’s really going to help our reputation with our food customers.”
This is also the first foray into large-scale wind for the Guysborough municipality.
Its 13.8-megawatt project, called Sable Wind, will have six turbines. The development will be on 137 hectares of municipal land.
“As an investment for the municipality, I think it’s a really smart one for us,” said Warden Lloyd Hines.
The winning projects beat out 16 others that were submitted to the independent administrator, Power Advisory LLC, a Massachusetts consulting firm.
Power Advisory president John Dalton said he knows other bidders won’t be happy that all three winning projects involve Nova Scotia Power.
But the contract awards represent the best value for ratepayers, the administrator said.
The average price for the electricity in the contracts is $70 to $75 per megawatt hour.
Dalton said that’s “meaningfully lower” than previous contracts the utility has with independent producers.
“We’ve benefited from lower costs of wind turbines in general and a very competitive process.”
Some developers expressed concern while tender rules were being developed Nova Scotia Power had an unfair advantage over their projects.
One losing bidder said the independent administrator has been fair and objective in his dealings with developers.
But Dan Roscoe, chief operating officer of Dartmouth’s Scotian WindFields, also said independent producers will be talking to the province about ways of improving the process next time.
“If Nova Scotia Power is underwriting all these projects, are they really independent? We feel a discussion will need to be had (about) whether or not there’s a value to Nova Scotians in having 100 per cent independent power producers rather than semi-independent power producers.”
Scotian had proposed a 40-megawatt project in Renfrew, Hants County, in partnership with WEB Wind Energy North America.
Nova Scotia Power said the decision process was fair.
“The winners are all well-established Nova Scotia entities with deep roots in their communities,” said utility spokeswoman Neera Ritcey.
“Their involvement will ensure the benefits are flowing locally. We are proud to have partnered with them and look forward to our work ahead.”
Energy Minister Charlie Parker said the province isn’t planning to approve any other large-scale wind farms soon.
The 115 megawatts of wind energy being added to the grid this time will bring the system close to the 500-megawatt threshold, he said in a news release.
“This is near the technical limit of the amount that can be integrated into the province’s electricity grid,” the release said.