Kruger Energy's 100 MW Monteregie wind farm, located 20 km outside of Montreal, is surely opening a lot of eyes – mainly because you can see spinning wind turbines from the roofs of downtown skyscrapers.
Commissioned on Dec. 12, 2012, the wind farm features 44 Enercon E82 wind turbines perched on 98-meter hybrid towers made of steel and concrete. The project is the result of nearly five years of company outreach and continual communication with the local communities, explains Jean Roy, senior vice president and chief operating officer at Kruger Energy.
From the outset in 2008, Kruger canvassed the surrounding municipalities – holding yearly open houses in each municipality – to provide project updates and to answer questions from residents.
Developing a utility-scale project so close to an urban location is especially significant to the growing issue of social acceptance, which will gain greater attention as wind projects continue to move closer to urban locations. In fact, social acceptance is the No.1 strategic priority of the Canadian Wind Energy Association.
Roy says the Monteregie project can serve as a model for other urban wind projects, but not the only model. Unfortunately, there is no standard practice for gaining local acceptance.
‘The whole exercise is about people interacting with people – which means explaining, listening and adapting to local needs as expressed by the community,’ he says.
In Quebec, there is no shortage of opportunities for stakeholders to vet the wind farm, which – depending on your viewpoint – can be a challenge or an opportunity. On one hand, such public scrutiny requires wind developers to adopt best practices – which often leads to successful projects and, in turn, community acceptance.
On the other hand, public hearings – which automatically follow environmental assessments – can be combative.
‘A hearing can take two days or two weeks,’ Roy says, adding that the wind farm's layout "changed about 20 times" due to residents' concerns.
Roy explains that the modifications included reducing the number of turbines from 50 to 44 by using a 2.3 MW version of the E82 machine. Additionally, the distance between each turbine and the closest residence has been set at an average of 1 km. In fact, Roy says that no house is closer than 750 meters – even though some municipalities only require 500-meter setbacks.
Furthermore, as part of its public hearings, Kruger Energy twice set up a secluded room for sound simulation ‘so that residents could grasp the effect of different sound levels and compare that with what they hear in their day-to-day environment,’ Roy says.
The developer was awarded a contract for the Monteregie project following Hydro-Quebec's 2005 call for power, which included a solicitation for 2 GW of wind energy. Although the response to Hydro-Quebec's request for proposals was overwhelming – 66 wind project proposals totaling 8 GW of installed capacity – Roy believes it was the Monteregie project's proximity to load that helped to secure the bid.
Generally speaking, adding generation closer to load centers minimizes transmission line losses. However, the same cannot be said for wind farms located in other regions of the province, such as in Gaspe, where lines must carry power over hundreds of kilometers.
According to a Hydro-Quebec spokesperson, power losses on the utility's transmission system are mostly related to the length and the voltage of a line.
‘While the price of energy was higher, we thought we might get some points from Hydro-Quebec based on proximity to load,’ he explains. The assumption proved correct, as Kruger Energy was one of 15 developers to receive a long-term contract.
Although Hydro-Quebec does not produce figures for line losses from each project, it estimates that, on average, losses on its transmission system are equal to 5.4% of the energy transmitted.
‘Being so close to load," Roy says, "our project avoids those kind of losses on the system.’
Caption: Downtown Montreal looms in the background as tower erection ensues at Kruger Energy's Monteregie Wind Project.
Photo courtesy of Kruger Energy