NORTH STORMONT — Developers of the Nation Rise Wind Farm have received final approval to sell power into the grid, just as they’ve offloaded a majority stake in the estimated $450-million project to the Algonquins of Pikwakanagan First Nation.
Terms of the sale between project builder EDP Renewables and Chi-Nódin Limited Partnership, owned by the Renfrew County-based Indigenous group, have not been disclosed. EDPR did have a prior deal with Axium Infrastructure for an 80 percent share of Nation Rise, although that Quebec-based outfit is now out of the picture.
The 100-megawatt, 29-turbine wind farm cleared its final regulatory hurdle July 12 when Ontario’s Independent Electricity System Operator awarded commercial operation status to Nation Rise after a 20-day review period. That final green light means the project will receive revenue for electricity injected into the system since June 17, 2021, the actual date of commercial operation set by the regulator, according to IESO media relations supervisor Andrew Dow.
Headquartered in Europe, EDPR will be responsible for the operations and maintenance of Nation Rise — located southeast of Ottawa — throughout its lifecycle.
The company says the project created more than 230 local construction jobs as well as approximately 10 permanent local jobs managing and maintaining the development. It also points to a total $45 million that will flow into the North Stormont community over the next 30 years: That includes payments made to landowners hosting the turbines — with unconfirmed estimates of about $25,000 paid annually per tower — plus municipal taxes, charitable donations and a $300,000 yearly payout to the township in the form of a “community benefit fund.” North Stormont Council heard this week that its first community benefit fund cheque will arrive in August.
“The development and construction of the Nation Rise Wind Farm were herculean efforts and ones that required months of tireless, persistent work from many devoted employees, contractors, and stakeholders,” said Miguel Prado, EDP Renewables North America CEO. “Nation Rise achieving commercial operations is a feat I am exceptionally proud of, and through our collaboration with the Algonquins of Pikwakanagan First Nation, I am pleased to provide cost-effective energy to Ontarians for decades to come.”
EDPR also says its sale to the Algonquins “further illustrates the company’s commitment to its €8bn asset rotation program, which allows for accelerating value creation while recycling capital to reinvest in accretive growth.”
A community of only about 2,000 people, the Algonquins of Pikwakanagan First Nation (AOPFN) have previously invested in renewable energy projects, including several “microfit” developments located in their territory on the shores of Golden Lake and the Bonnechere River.
“The opportunity for AOPFN to participate in the local economy and to be partners in renewable energy projects and local businesses definitely positions our community for success, and we look forward to this venture as well as many others that we expect to come in the future,” said Amanda Two-Axe Kohoko of the Chi-Nódin Limited Partnership Board of Directors.
EDPR’s Ken Little explained that Nation Rise’s new majority owners — despite their small population— have been able to access financing to accomplish the purchase. The group has also invested in a couple of large, local solar projects in the Cornwall area, he said.
“They do see a lot of opportunities within the private financing market for participation projects,” Little said.
The purchaser did not seek funding support from Indigenous Services Canada, confirmed Leslie Michelson, spokesperson for the federal department, who offered congratulations to “Chief Wendy Jocko and Algonquins of Pikwakanagan First Nation as they celebrate the acquisition of a majority ownership of Nation Rise Wind Farm.”
Though Little wouldn’t put a dollar figure on the Algonquins’ just-over 50% stake in Nation Rise, project opponents once pegged the development’s total value — including expected revenues over 20 years — at about $450-million.
The build cost alone on the 100-megawatt project would have been projected at about $200 million, based on Canadian industry costs, according to Little. He conceded, though, that construction delays have upped that figure by an undisclosed amount.
Project critic Ruby Mekker expressed her “disappointment” at the new investors’ involvement and pointedly asked why Axium, the previous investor, pulled out of Nation Rise last year?
Mekker — who has raised concerns over alleged adverse health effects of “industrial wind turbine syndrome” — said she’s reached out to Chief Jocko to request termination of the project.
In a circulated email to North Stormont residents, Mekker noted that the Algonquins’ Facebook page features a banner that reads: Every Child Matters. “Well, the children living in proximity to Nation Rise should matter too,” she observed. Township residents, she added, should copy the project’s new “partner” when filing their noise and adverse health reports.
Deeply distressed at the provincial grid regulator’s final OK for the project, Mekker told Farmers Forum that the entity granted approval without acknowledging concerns raised in another letter signed by 78 individuals during the recent review period. “How can the IESO approve the commercial operation operation date?” the retired dairy farmer asked, “when, clearly, these turbines are not operational, they are not producing power, in any consistent form or matter, and now they have indebted every person in Ontario for the next 20 years.”
But Little said the project is, in fact, operating and that the project requires “no major work” at this point. Some “reclamation activity” to remove temporary turning roads is expected through the end of August, he said, “and kind of cleaning up anything else that needs to be done.”
Employees with manufacturer Enercon are currently busy with a start-up maintenance cycle on the turbines as well, he said. But as time goes on, residents will see “less and less” situations where some turbines are spinning while others are still, he said.
Pikwakanagan is otherwise known as the origin of the world’s largest birch bark canoe, Canada’s first Algonquin female chief, and Algonquin actor Paul Benoit.