Douglas examines Canadian wind projects

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(Host) Governor Jim Douglas has embarked on a two-day trade mission to Quebec to take in one of the world’s largest wind projects.

Douglas will tour the massive Canadian wind farm that he hopes will provide electricity to Vermont when the contract for Hydro-Quebec power expires.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) The trip marks Douglas’s second visit to Quebec to discuss trade opportunities with premier Jean Charest.

Quebec is Vermont’s largest trading partner and the governor wants to expand this relationship. His visit includes a speech in French.

(Douglas) “Les Quebecois sont nos cheres amis et voisins. Cest tres important d’avoir ce seance and I look forward to continuing the international relations that we’ve developed over the last couple of years.”

(Kinzel) The central focus of this trip is energy. Vermont currently receives about one-third of its electrical needs from Hydro-Quebec. This contract will be phased out at about the same time that the license of the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power plant is scheduled to expire – roughly seven years from now.

(Douglas) “Our contracts don’t expire for some time. But we want to be sure that we have a relationship that continues to be strong for many years to come.”

(Kinzel) Douglas will tour a massive new wind generation project on the north coast of the Gaspe Peninsula in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Hydro- Quebec is the broker for this power.

More than a hundred wind turbines are currently operational and at least five hundred more are scheduled to be built over the next five years.

When it’s completed, the Gaspe wind farm will produce approximately twice as much power as Vermont Yankee.

(Douglas) “We’re going to look at the wind development that Hydro-Quebec and its partners are developing out on the Gaspe. There’s a lot of interest among Vermonters – me included – to pursue renewable sources. And wind energy from the Gaspe might be a part of our energy future.”

(Kinzel) The Conservation Law Foundation thinks the Gaspe wind project has environmental benefits.

Sandy Levine monitors energy issues at CLF.

(Levine)”Wind projects have far fewer damaging environmental effects than other sources of power whether you think about large hydro dams or nuclear power or even fossil fuels. I think the main issue here is going to be the price and the cost of this power. For most of Vermont’s history with the Hydro-Quebec contract, it has not been a good investment for Vermont, and that’s led to the near bankruptcy of a number of Vermont utilities. So we need to be careful that that doesn’t happen again.”

(Kinzel) If the Gaspe wind project stays on schedule, all initial construction will be completed by 2012.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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