Friday, August 3, 2012

Wind farm winners announced


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.

New Renewable Projects Provide Jobs and Investment

NS Dept of Energy

August 2, 2012 10:19 AM

Nova Scotia is moving ahead with three commercial-scale wind-energy projects that will create good jobs and $200 million of new investment.

Energy Minister Charlie Parker said the projects, in Lunenburg and Guysborough counties, will help stabilize electricity prices in Nova Scotia and benefit the environment.

"These large wind projects will result in $200 million in private sector investments that will, in turn, help us meet our cleaner energy agenda," said Mr. Parker.

The projects announced today, Aug. 2, by the province's renewable electricity administrator, Power Advisory, are:
-- a 78 megawatt South Canoe Wind Project between Chester and Windsor, led by Oxford Frozen Foods
-- a 24 megawatt South Canoe Wind Project in Lunenburg County, led by Minas Paper Pulp and Power
-- a 13.8 megawatt Sable Wind Project near Canso, led by the Municipality of the District of Guysborough

"Nova Scotia has one of the best wind regimes in North America," said Mr. Parker. "The wind itself is free, and the cost of building wind farms can be spread over many years. The result is a stabilizing effect on electricity rates."

The selected projects represented the most cost-effective offers. Their average purchase price was in the mid-$70s per MWh, lower than those in the 2007 call for bids. Nova Scotia Power is a minority investor in each of the projects.

Collectively, these projects are expected to bring total wind energy close to the 500 MW wind threshold by 2015. This is near the technical limit of the amount that can be integrated into the province's electricity grid, according to the 2008 Nova Scotia Wind Integration Study by Hatch Energy. Consequently, the province does not expect to issue more request for proposals for large-scale wind projects in the near future.

The renewable electricity administrator was appointed by the province to call for bids, evaluate bid submissions and select winning projects based on which projects provide the best value for ratepayers.

The process also completes an objective of the province's renewable electricity plan to determine if the utility or independent power producers could build the lowest-cost renewables for the province. The competition indicates a partnership model produces the best results.

The three large-wind projects will help the province reach its renewable energy plan target of 25 per cent of the province's electricity needs met by renewable sources by 2015. The province also committed to achieving a 40 per cent renewable electricity target by 2020.

Wind energy development is one aspect of the renewable electricity plan, which focuses on diversifying the province's energy mix and meeting federal and provincial environmental targets. Other elements include tidal energy, natural gas and hydroelectricity from Lower Churchill.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Holding our Breath

Well, the proponents heard yesterday which of the 19 proposals are winners. The public will officially be informed in couple of weeks, but we are expecting some flapping gums before that. Meanwhile, we hold our breath waiting for any news.

We know that in Pugwash there has been some last minute wheeling and dealing. There have been attempts to purchase land in the middle of the project that was bought four years ago with the explicit purpose of avoiding having turbines on it. An offer of $1000/acre for half cut off land sound a little desperate.

A sad little property at the end of the Miller Road has been purchased by the proponent - to what end we're not quite sure. What he says its for and its actual purpose would be are likely very different.

We know that their field workers were attempting to home in on final turbine locations at the very last minute. This is a mandatory step for the RFP. Despite the fact this has been a very dry year, wetlands that are to be avoided are still clearly identifiable.

A real big stumbling block was the anemometer - or lack thereof. RFP scoring improves with multiple wind monitoring towers. This project had one, short tower, a little outside of the project footprint. Not a good score. The only wind data used in the EA came from Truro!!

The Environmental Assessment (EA) had been submitted, which would score well. This is not fair and has to be addressed for next time. Having an poorly executed, incomplete EA scores just as well as a good one and better than a really good one that has not been submitted yet. Not fair.

Menawhile ..... Health Canada has announced it will conduct a study on health effects of wind turbines. It is a little concerning that the sites have already been chosen, but we have to trust that the Feds will conduct everying fairly and with transparency. Hmmm ....

.... so you would think that, if the Feds finally realize that there is enough smoke to investigate the fire, that any projects planned anywhere near any populated areas would be put on hold. To carry on building while that very type of site is being investigated for its potential to make people sick would be reckless. But I supposed there are people who would rather risk the ire of the locals, Feds and everyone inbetween, and go "ooops, my bad" than not grasp at any opportunity to make a dollar off the backs of local residents and local property owners.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Update to membership and friends - and blog followers

NS Department of Energy has released the Request for Proposals (RFP) to renewable energy developers. This would include the developers of the Pugwash wind project.

The RFP release has been delayed due to wrangling between various parties over the Power Purchase Agreement (PPA). This is a shell form that is used to form an agreement between developers and Nova Scotia Power once the projects have been approved.

Once the PPA was approved by the Utilities and Review Board (UARB), the final wording of the RFP was determined and finally released. Because of these delays, the format of how projects are to be submitted is a little different to how we had been originally told. The proponents now have until June 27th to submit their projects to the Renewable Energy Administrator (REA).

The proponents' projects are scored by the REA from predetermined criteria (see below). In the case of a tie, other factors could have influence, for example input from the public to the REA.

The REA, which is in Massachusetts with an office in Toronto, only knows what the developer submits in their project proposal. The developer is going to present the very best case they can to the REA in order to win the bid.

It is up to those of us who care about the Pugwash economy and quality of life to make sure that the REA is truly informed about the Pugwash project - warts and all.

There are many other wind projects on offer that are abundantly better located, planned and prepared - the extensions to existing projects at Glen Dhu and Dalhousie Mountain come to mind.

We have been going though this process for over 5.5 years. Now we have 17 days to make sure the people who are going to make a decision that could affect all our lives forever know all that they need to know about this project, particularly those uglier facts that you can be assured will not be included in the project proposal. Check out the criteria list below and please make sure the REA knows all what we know. What they will find out for sure is that this is a contentious and unpopular project and that it will not score well in "Community Acceptance". Copy your emails to your MLA and NS Ministers too. Make sure you get your letters in by June 27th.

The Department of the Environment received unprecedented volumes of letters over our objections to the Pugwash project EA. The government is taking notice. Lets make sure the REA knows where Pugwash, Nova Scotia is too!


The RFP is at:
The Environmental Assessments are at:

Renewable Energy Administrator (REA):
NS Minister of Environment, Sterling Belliveau:
NS Minister of Energy, Charlie Parker:
MLA for Cumberland North, Brian Skabar:

The REA can also be contacted via their website or

Scoring Criteria
Network Upgrade Requirements: 40
Project Team Experience : 15
Financial Assessment: 15
Resource Assessment: 10
Environmental Assessment: 10
Community Acceptance: 10
Top score: 100

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Time to be proactive, not reactive, about energy future

June 10, 2012 - 4:12am

by Rachel Brighton, Just Business

Protests against Nova Scotia Power are like water off a duck’s back.

Instead of dressing up and parading in front of corporate shareholders and executives in Halifax, angry ratepayers should pile into buses and tour Cumberland County to learn how citizens can take a real stake in the democratically governed production of green energy.

Some of them may be put off by the sight of the 15 tall wind turbines planted on the stark Tantramar marsh just on the Nova Scotia side of the New Brunswick border.

But that privately owned wind farm on private land does not indicate the full thrust of the region’s energy strategy, which is partly geared to attracting outside investment and very much aimed at building energy self-sufficiency.

Cumberland County should inspire municipalities and civic institutions in the way its public buildings, infrastructure and services are being powered with green energy, including solar, wind and — thanks to the flooded coal mines under Springhill — warm mine water.

A battery maker, a boiler maker, a plastics manufacturer and a pizza chain were among the first businesses to experiment with this geothermal heat from the mines, which has been used in Springhill for two decades and provides energy for heating, cooling and processing to 10 operations in a geothermal industrial park.

The Joggins Fossil Institute is powered by wind and solar, and at the new community centre in Springhill, underground warm water is converted into energy for heating, cooling and making ice for the arena.

The county has the province’s only regional energy office, a partnership that includes Cumberland County, the towns of Springhill and Parrsboro and the Cumberland Regional Economic Development Authority.

A regional energy strategy was developed with advice from local manufacturers, wineries, producers of blueberries and other agricultural products, the forestry sector, environmentalists, academics, the Nova Scotia Community College and Minas Basin Pulp and Power, which has a stake in the experimental stage of tidal power development in the Minas Channel.

Kings County, which has placed a hold on large-scale wind projects and is considering a moratorium on new wind farms while it figures out how to balance the interests of developers and residents, should marvel at what can happen when municipal governments are proactive rather than reactive in the renewable energy game.

Local governments are realizing they can gain a competitive edge if they have the right wind regime, the right regulations and a hold on natural assets, such as a natural supply of warm water underground or the prospect, as difficult as it seems, of harnessing tidal energy.

Public attention right now is fixed on the cost of power that is distributed through a provincial monopoly. The simplest and easiest way to avoid these costs is to generate alternative energy sources.

Municipalities can and should play a bigger role in energy generation to help us break our dependence on a monopolized, expensive, centrally operated power system.

Rachel Brighton is a freelance journalist and former magazine publisher. She writes on environmental technology for the new Herald Magazine and on small business for The Chronicle Herald.


Ms Brighton is correct on many level - any investor will tell you a diversified portfolio is much more stable than investing in a single stock. There are some important things missing here, though.

Cumberland County is unique in having a variety of excellent resources available to it that others do not, not least geothermal and access to the biggest tides in the world. It is also the sunniest part of the province, so solar is a definite possibility as that technology moves apace. Oh yes, and we have wind too.

Of these renewables (in the absence of any large hydro project) wind energy is by far the most invasive to those nearby and for miles around. Municipalities have to understand that these energy generating sites cannot be located just anywhere. Rules have to be written to protect residents from these projects and developers from attracting such poor acceptance the entire industry gets bad press.

The Municipality of Cumberland County has definitely made great strides in supporting these renewables, but what Kings County has done is realise that people are part of the environment too. It is the residents who are the end user of the County's services and it is they who the county need to listen to and realise that if they are not happy they will either (a) react at election time, (b) not develop their properties, thus affecting its tax value or (c) simply move away.

The Municipalities can have their renewables and keep their residents happy at the same time, but it takes good planning guidelines that are not a cookie cutter approach but look at each case on its own merits. Yes, that takes more time but what is important: doing it fast or getting it right?

Thursday, June 7, 2012

RFP for Renewables Released

The Nova Scotia Department of Energy has released the final version of the Request for Proposals (RFP) for 300 GWh renewable energy to be online by January 1st, 2015.

This long overdue document has been delayed by protracted discussion between the prospective proponents, Nova Scotia Power (NSPI), the Renewable Energy Administrator (the REA) and the NS Utility and Review Board (UARB), mostly over the final version of the standard form for the Power Purchase Agreement (PPA). This was released May 25th, which then allowed for any final tweaks of the RFP.

Proponents now have less than three weeks to get thier proposals submitted to the REA. Submission deadline is June 27th.

Projects will be scored out of 100 points depending on their location within the province (40), project team experience(15), resource assessment (10), financial security (15), environmental assessment (EA) (10), community acceptance (10).

From the RFP: "All communication with respect to this RFP will be conducted through the NSRenewables website: Comments and questions regarding the RFP or PPA should be directed to"

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

NSP CEO defends raise

June 5, 2012 - 8:54pm

Joann Ablerstat, Business Reporter

Bennett says compensation came after rigorous review

Nova Scotia Power’s president and chief executive officer is defending the 23 per cent raise he received last year.

Rob Bennett told a Halifax business audience Tuesday that the utility’s executive compensation is about average compared with other Canadian companies.

“I know that people look at the reported executive ‘comp’ numbers and they may be concerned,” he said in response to an audience question. “But I can tell you that that compensation is subject to a myriad of reviews.”

Bennett’s total compensation last year reached $1.15 million, according to documents filed last month.

Ratepayers cover all of the base salaries and half of the incentives for four Nova Scotia Power executives, including Bennett.

The CEO said the utility’s board of directors sets compensation levels in consultation with experts and after a review of compensation trends nationally.

The top dogs at Emera Inc., Nova Scotia Power’s parent company, also saw their pay packets grow last year.

President and CEO Chris Huskilson received $2.99 million in total compensation, and vice-president Nancy Tower got $1.4 million.

The figures became public two days after Nova Scotia Power applied for a three per cent rate increase next year and another three per cent the year after.

Bennett said after his speech that the utility’s board uses “a very diligent process” to set executive compensation.

“I feel very fortunate to be able to be here in this province with my family, to work at a job that I really enjoy doing,” he told reporters. “And I’m well compensated — there’s no doubt about that.”

Bennett told the chamber of commerce luncheon that power rates are being driven up by the cost of adding more renewable electricity to the grid, coupled with the financial woes in the province’s pulp and paper industry.

“Other provinces are facing the same challenges that we face in terms of modernization of their grid, and change,” he said.

Bennett said the rate hikes would be even higher — 13 per cent over the next two years — if Nova Scotia Power didn’t have a plan to soften the impact of mill closures.

NewPage and Bowater Mersey used to contribute $45 million a year to the utility’s fixed costs but the amount is expected to be $3 million annually if the Point Tupper operation resumes.

“We’ve worked hard to reduce that rate ‘ask’ down to something that’s about equivalent to the rate of inflation,” Bennett said.

He mentioned the seasonable shutdown of two coal-fired units at Lingan and the recent elimination of 100 jobs through layoffs and attribution as examples of recent cost-cutting measures.

Opposition party leaders who attended the luncheon said they’re not buying Nova Scotia Power’s argument that it needs more money.

Stephen McNeil, leader of the official Opposition Liberals, said ending the utility’s monopoly would help lower energy costs.

“The only way Nova Scotians are going to see any kind of stability and any kind of relief when it comes to energy pricing is if we begin to allow competition in the market and allow other producers to come in and provide an opportunity to sell directly to customers,” he told reporters.

Progressive Conservative Leader Jamie Baillie said Premier Darrell Dexter should change the law to make affordability a priority when the provincial regulator — the Utility and Review Board — sets power rates.

“The way the power company makes money and the way its executive are paid is out of line with what Nova Scotians can afford,” Baillie said.