Wemindji is the latest community to throw its collective hat into the wind power ring with a cautious debut in the wind power industry, according to their chief.
Two years ago the chief and council visited a wind power company based in Montreal called 3 Cl, which has completed numerous projects in Murdochville. The idea slowly gained steam and a plan is taking shape.
“We’ve had a lot of people come into our community make presentations on large wind farms,” said Wemindji Chief Rodney Mark. “I met this company through an associate. We talked about doing a practical wind farm, not a mega project. That’s what they were looking for and they were interested in James Bay territory.”
The nine-megawatt proposal still has many kinks to work out – such as economic and environmental impact studies – but Chief Rodney Mark is confident it will work.
“We’re going to try to open the door for the possibility of expansion as well, but I have indicated to our partner that we’re not interested in building a farm of 100 megawatts,” Chief Rodney Mark told the Nation. “We are interested in building a wind program, but at a practical, profitable rate.”
One megawatt is enough to power 250 houses.
The Grand Council of the Crees passed a resolution in support of the dialogue between the Wemindji council and Hydro Quebec.
“I’m excited that the Grand Council supported it,” said the chief. “I don’t know how it’s all going to pan out, but I’m very optimistic in the process of it.”
He also said that the project would be presented at the Annual General Assembly in August to answer any questions community members might have. By December the project should be deep into the planning stages and Mark says that a special meeting in March 2008 will gauge the interest within the community. After that a band resolution could be passed to give the band council the go ahead.
“There have been studies to expand the mini-dam in the community, but the tallymen were not in favour, so we’re looking at other alternatives,” said Mark. “What I want to do with the revenue it will generate, I’d like to see more programs that take care of the environment. These are things we’ll have to look at.”
The mini-dam, on the Maquatua River, is a joint venture between Hydro Quebec and Wemindji. It provides a small amount of power to the community, but the $ 15-mil-lion wind farm, which will consist of at least three turbines, would be built to generate profit for the community’s youth, social and health programs.
A location near the Sarcelles powerhouse is currently being studied for the future site of the massive turbines.
“We’re also looking at biomass and geothermal and those kinds of things,” he said.
Mark said that the power generated from the wind farm would not be used within the community, choosing instead to sell all of it to Hydro Quebec. The jobs and economic spin-offs have yet to be calculated, but Mark said it could only help strengthen the economy in the community of 1,200.
A board of directors will be created to oversee the project once it is approved. Revenues and expenses, according to Chief Mark, will be split 50-50 for the joint effort, which could take two or more years to be built.