The 147.2 MW Mont Sainte-Marguerite Wind Farm, located in southern Quebec, has entered its construction phase, with completion slated for the end of this year.
The C$263 million project, jointly owned by Pattern Energy and three provincial municipalities, was selected by Hydro-Quebec Distribution and presented with a 25-year power purchase agreement, following the government-run utility’s 2013 request for proposals (RFP). As a result of the RFP, nearly 450 MW of wind will be added to the grid. The other recipients were Invenergy’s 74.8 MW Roncevaux wind farm and EDF EN Canada’s 224.4 MW Nicolas-Riou wind farm.
Originally developed by RES Canada, the wind farm was purchased by Pattern Development in 2015. Pattern, which jointly shares ownership of the wind farm with the communities of Sacre-Coeur-de-Jesus, Saint-Sylvestre and Saint-Severin, is the project’s sole financial investor.
The wind farm comprises 46 3.2 MW Siemens direct-drive wind turbines, each with a hub height of 92.5 meters.
The Hydro-Quebec RFP included strict regional content requirements that have two parts: One part is a regional content requirement that calls for 60% of the overall project’s costs to be sourced from Quebec suppliers and vendors, and the second requirement calls for the original equipment manufacturer, in this case Siemens, to manufacture at least 35% of the turbine components in Quebec’s Gaspe Peninsula. As such, Siemens has partnered with Matane, Quebec-based Marmen, which is supplying the tower sections; and New Richmond, Quebec-based Fabrication Delta to make the hubs.
The Mont Sainte-Marguerite Wind Farm marks the first Quebec wind development for Pattern and Siemens – two of the more established and active wind industry participants.
The developer says the wind farm’s construction-to-term financing was provided by The Manufacturers Life Insurance Co., Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec and Bayerische Landesbank. It fully amortizes over the term of the project’s 25-year power purchase agreement with Hydro-Quebec, Pattern notes.
The site is located in a heavily forested area south of Quebec City, known to locals as the Bose Region. Before the wind farm, the area was best known for asbestos mining and the production of maple syrup.
At press time, Mont Sainte-Marguerite was in the early stages of the construction phase, says William Shemie, Pattern’s construction manager, noting that nearly 70% of the access roads have been completed, along with the pouring of the wind turbine foundations. Shemie anticipates that the wind turbines arriving in August will present some delivery challenges due to the site’s remote location and hilly terrain. The project site, which is located on one of the higher elevations in southern Quebec, has one of the strongest wind resources in the region, the developer says.
Borea Construction is the service provider under the supervision of both Pattern Development’s construction management team and RES Canada, the primary on-site construction manager. Pattern notes that RES was kept on during the development and construction phase of the project under a service agreement. Approximately 250 workers will be employed on-site at the peak of construction activity. Once operational, the project will create approximately 10 permanent jobs for ongoing operations and maintenance, in addition to a number of jobs for local contractors.
After a minor delay in getting approval from Quebec’s Ministry of the Environment, Shemie says the project actually started construction last December.
“We had intended to start construction end of summer (September 2016),” he explains, noting that the project schedule was delayed until December because of approvals in provincial permits based on a decree from the Ministry of Environment.
“We typically don’t start construction in winter,” notes Shemie, who added the project team deemed it necessary to meet its December 2017 commercial operation date.
A key aspect of the Hydro-Quebec RFP was the involvement of the community partners. In fact, the RFP stipulated that eligible bids must show that developers co-own the wind projects with local towns or communities. As such, Pattern’s community partners – the municipalities of Sacre-Coeur-de-Jesus, Saint-Sylvestre and Saint-Severin – are equal stakeholders in the project and were active participants in its development, Shemie says. The wind farm is expected to generate more than C$775,000 annually for the host communities – not an insignificant number considering the former industrial area has fallen on hard economic times.
Because of the amount of time Pattern spent in consultation with its new partners – even before the first shovel was struck in the soil – working with the communities has also gone smoothly.
“We spend a lot of time working with the municipal partners,” says Shemie. “It sets the stage for a good relationship with the host community and ultimately makes for a better, more efficient project. We’ve kept them involved through the development stages and through the construction process.”
As Mont Sainte-Marguerite steams toward completion, these are uncertain times in the province of Quebec regarding wind. Some suggest that the projects from the 450 MW wind block may be the final projects in Quebec for a while. With that, is Pattern feeling any added pressure to deliver a quality project?
“When we bid the project into the 450 MW block, there was much less visibility on future procurement than there is now,” Shemie says. “I think the pressure in this tender was to deliver a project with a community partner that works over the long-term operation period and that this partnership adds to general community acceptance of industrial wind projects in the region.
“Many in the province are looking for the next procurement,” Shemie says. “Nonetheless, the area is pretty excited that new industrial development is happening.”