Is the development of wind farms open to communities?
Yes. In April 2009, in accordance with the 2006-2015 Quebec government energy policy, Hydro-Quebec issued an RFP for 500 MW of wind energy, one-half of which was intended for regional county municipalities, and the other half for First Nations initiatives. Upon completion of the RFP, 12 contracts were awarded, totalling 291.4 MW of wind energy, of which 267.4 MW went to community-based projects and 24 MW to a First Nations project. Also, when the first 1000 MW RFP was issued in 2004, the process was open to citizen groups, farmers, cooperatives and unions alike, but no bids were submitted by regional county municipalities.
There are several reasons why communities might shy away from wind energy development. One is the purchase price set by Hydro-Quebec, which is quite low. In Europe, where wind power is sold at much higher prices (13 cents per kWh in France versus 6.5 cents per kWh in Quebec), it is easier for community-based projects to turn a profit. Another reason could be that building and maintaining a wind farm over a 20-year span entails risks. Wind is an intermittent resource, the climate is changing, many government authorizations must be obtained, financing must be arranged and construction risks must also be taken into consideration. For all these reasons, large Crown corporations worldwide have thought it best to entrust wind energy to the private sector.5
In July 2012, the Quebec government announced it would add another 700 MW of wind energy to the Quebec portfolio, which would ensure that it reaches its goal of providing 4000 MW of electricity from wind sources by 2015. It is expected that projects might be developed through a hybrid model that brings together communities and private companies.