Wind Energy Centre
In the Beginning
The Skinners Pond Wind Energy Centre (“Skinners Pond” or “the Project”) has a unique history. Rather than being launched by a renewable energy company or government wind developer like most Maritime wind projects, Skinners Pond was conceived by a large group of forward-thinking landowners in a part of Prince Edward Island that has a great history of establishing cooperatives – West Prince. Well over a dozen years ago as wind started to hit its stride in the energy world, the landowners watched closely and began to formulate a plan. They realized that a large tract of land they all owned pieces of was situated in one of the most energetic wind regimes in Atlantic Canada. Moreover, much of it was being farmed, a primary use of land that wind turbines were perfectly compatible with. They also noted that all of their residences were located around the perimeter of the tract. The question was then posed, “why wouldn’t the middle, an area almost ten kilometres long by two or three kilometres wide and containing several thousand acres, be the ideal location for a wind farm?”
A Beauty Contest for Wind Developers
In late 2007 the landowners proceeded to test their theory, and it turned out that interest from the renewable energy industry was immediate and high. This crystalized in early 2008 when regular large “garage meetings” were conducted over several months so that half a dozen wind development companies could have the opportunity to present proposals to the landowners. Ultimately and after all of the meetings were held and ballots were cast, Invenergy Wind was selected over the other candidate developers to help develop Skinners Pond.
Energy for Generations of Islanders
With more than 4,000 acres under land agreement, Skinners Pond dwarfs in size any other proposed wind development area in the province. The map below illustrates just how easily a 30MW project, the size of PEI Energy Corp’s windfarm at East Point, can be immediately accommodated and still have most of the project area available for buildout when needed by future Island generations.
The Cooperative Model
With 65 signed land agreements representing over 85 owners, Skinners Pond is a model of community cooperation. Its extraordinarily high rate of participation reflects an innovative and inclusive lease arrangement; anyone signing up their land within the project area, even if it’s only a 15 acre parcel and unsuitable for wind facilities, will receive their pro-rata share of 90% of landowner revenue. (The remaining 10% will be distributed amongst those owners whose lands host turbines.) The landowners’ creativity and fairness at Skinners Pond impressed Invenergy so much it has applied a similar approach to its other Canadian wind projects.
Community Benefit Fund (CBF)
Not everyone in the neighborhood owns land in the project area. In recognition of that reality, Invenergy made an early commitment to fund a CBF at the annual rate of $500/MW once its wind turbines start generating power. This means that for a 30MW windfarm, $15,000 will be funneled each year into rinks, firehalls, community centres and other key local institutions for the benefit of all residents. The development of future project phases will only see these numbers grow.
25 KMs to a Transmission Connection
PEI has a high voltage 138kV transmission grid that stretches from East Point, to Charlottetown, to Summerside, to … Bloomfield Corner. Frustratingly, while it does poke into West Prince, the 138kV grid stops about 25kms short of Skinners Pond and the area’s lower voltage circuits simply don’t have the capacity to receive power from eg: a 30MW wind farm. Just as expansion of the 138kV grid to East Point enabled the connection of the East Point and Hermanville wind farms, so will the design and construction of a West Prince 138kV line enable Skinners Pond, not to mention providing needed power and reliability to service growing communities up west such as Alberton and Tignish
Land Agreements Renewed
Long before any positive news was received on the transmission line challenge, Skinners Pond landowners showed their steadfastness and determination to keep the Project viable and prospective when they extended their land agreements en masse in late 2019. Invenergy staff were on hand to witness the agreement extensions and also to host a community event at the Stompin’ Tom Centre. A full house was on hand to receive updates on the Project (pictured below), preceded by a terrific meal and followed by local live music.
Bridging the Transmission Gap!
In some terrific news for the community and the Project, key federal and provincial representatives met on July 23, 2020 to announce that “the gap” would be bridged through a new jointly-funded transmission line. From the Infrastructure Canada news release:
“Today Bobby Morrissey, Member of Parliament for Egmont, on behalf of the Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, the Honourable Dennis King, Premier of Prince Edward Island, the Honourable Dennis King, Premier of Prince Edward Island, and the Honourable Steven Myers, Prince Edward Island Minister of Transportation, Infrastructure and Energy, announced funding to build a new transmission line from Sherbrooke to Skinners Pond.
The new … transmission line and its related equipment will support future wind energy generation projects in western Prince Edward Island. Once completed, the transmission line will increase the province’s capacity to manage the anticipated 40 megawatts from the future Skinner’s Pond Windfarm planned for 2025 and provide connectivity to the Sherbrooke substation to the northeast of Summerside.”
Current Project Activities
With the unlocking of transmission access to the Project, Invenergy has begun planning next steps. Already underway is a campaign to ensure that any remaining landowners within the project perimeter who have not become involved in the Project have the opportunity to do so. Then starting in spring 2021, a variety of field and desktop studies will be commenced to inform an Environmental Impact Assessment that will be prepared over the next 18 months.
Like everyone, Invenergy looks forward to a “return to normal” where we no longer have to manage these activities from afar, and can once again meet with landowners and other community members (and occasionally host community dinners at the Stompin’ Tom Centre)!
Invenergy is America’s leading, privately-held developer and operator of sustainable energy solutions. A U.S. based company that develops, owns and operates clean energy facilities in the Americas, Europe and Asia. Invenergy has successfully developed more than 170 projects, totaling over 27,700 megawatts, including wind, solar, natural gas power generation and advanced energy storage projects.
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