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Native wind Power

Senvion has started spinning 47 of its wind turbines at the 150-MW Mesgi'g Ugju's'n wind farm in Quebec-an equal partnership between Innergex and three First Nations communities-the largest First Nations wind farm in Canada.

By Vicky Boyd

The benefits of the 150-megawatt Mesgi'g Ugju's'n Wind Farm in Quebec, Canada, go far beyond just generating renewable power for more than 30,000 households.

The $365 million project—which came online in late 2016—also created more than 300 jobs during development and construction and is generating a reliable income source for three Mi'gmaq communities for the next 20 years through a power purchase agreement (PPA).

The Mesgi'g Ugju's'n Wind Farm, which means "Big Wind" in Mi'gmaq, also set a precedent at the time it went online for being the largest First Nations wind farm in Canada. The project developer, Mesgi'g Ugju's'n (MU) Wind Farm L.P, is a 50/50 partnership between Innergex Renewable Energy Inc. and three Mi'gmaq communities: Gesgapegiag, Gespeg, and Listuguj. Quebec-based Innergex was responsible for management during construction and will operate the wind farm.

"This project is significant to the socio-economic development of the Mi'gmaq communities," says Chief Claude Jeannotte, chairman of the Mi'gmawei Mawiomi. "It will create wealth and jobs not only for our members, but also for our neighbors in Gaspésie and elsewhere in Quebec."

The MU Wind Farm also marked the first time that Senvion's 3-MW-class wind turbines had been installed in North America.

The project is located near Escuminac on Quebec's Gaspé Peninsula, historically known for strong winds. After seeing wind farms pop up in the area in the early 2000s, one Mi'gmaq community bid unsuccessfully to develop a wind project, said Terri Lynn Morrison, spokeswoman for the Mi'gmaq communities. In 2009, three communities joined together to try to develop a project on their own after seeing a 109-MW wind farm built near Carleton-sur-Mer.

"The three communities resolved to do whatever they had to, to achieve success and realize their goal," Morrison said. They had already collected wind data because of a previous attempt at a wind farm and had a site in mind with existing roads from earlier logging activities.

 
  

"It had been worked for so many years that it was a perfect site for a wind farm," she said. Additionally, the site's elevation of 1,970 feet meant there weren't many birds or bats to work around.

After taking the project as far as they could, the three communities solicited proposals from a dozen different developers to enter into a partnership. In the end, Innergex was selected in 2012.

"One of the things we stated from the beginning is we didn't want to be a silent partner," Morrison said. "When we finally had the project, Innergex said they would like to have a project director from the Mi'gmaq on site who would also give the Mi'gmaq point of view or point out sensitivities that Innergex should be aware of."

Morrison assumed that role and was a link between the project and the Mi'gmaq chiefs and councils.

For Innergex project manager Jeanne Gaudreault, the MU Wind Farm was the first time she had worked with the First Nations.

"It was a partnership that was very respectful," she said. "To do that, Innergex and the Mi'gmaq had to learn from each other."

For example, Innergex agreed to conduct a survey of moose as well as medicinal plants in the area—information that wasn't required during provincial and federal environmental reviews, Gaudreault said.

The MU project got its footing when the government of Quebec allocated 150 MW of wind power to the Mi'gmaq communities in May 2013, marking a significant step forward in their energy development.

 
 Senvion won the contract to provide and deliver 47 turbines to the site. All were equipped with hot air anti-icing systems that allow the machines to maximize yield, even in harsh climates.
  

The 150 MW was part of a much larger 800-MW allocation made by the government of Quebec that targeted projects initiated by local communities or cooperatives, in partnership with private developers.

Under the terms of the MU Wind Farm's PPA, Hydro-Quebec will pay 10.12 cents per kilowatt hour, with annual adjustments for inflation over the life of the 20-year contract. In return, the Mi'gmaq communities will receive about $200 million during the contract's life. The project partners also agreed that Innergex will make an annual indexed contribution of $675,000 to the Avignon Regional County Municipality, and it will set up an indexed social development fund of $75,000 to be paid annually. The project is being constructed on public land within the Avignon Regional County Municipality.

As part of the agreement, Hydro-Quebec also built a 16-mile transmission line to carry electricity from the wind farm to its power grid.

Senvion won the contract to provide and deliver 47 turbines to the site. Of those, 46 were the 3.2M114 Cold Climate Version (CCV) type and one was a MM92 CCV. All were equipped with hot air anti-icing systems that allow the machines to maximize yield, even in harsh climates.

 
After taking the project as far as they could, the three First Nations communities solicited proposals from a dozen different developers to enter into a partnership. In the end, Innergex was selected. 
  

The Senvion 3.2M114, rated at 3.2 MW, has a hub height of 328 feet and a rotor diameter of 374 feet. The MM92 has a rotor diameter of 301 feet.

Beginning in September 2015, the blades and five-part towers were manufactured locally in Quebec by Danish-owned turbine blade maker LM Wind Power in Gaspé and Marmen Energie Inc. in Matane. At 183 feet, each blade is described as being the longest in Canada.

Following issuance of a request for proposals, Quebec-based Borea Construction was chosen as the engineering, procurement and construction contractor for the MU wind farm. A veteran of other Canadian wind projects, including the Carleton-sur-Mer wind farm, Borea was responsible for constructing access roads, work areas, and wind turbine foundations. The company also took the lead in erecting and assembling various parts and constructing the transformer substation.

A 48-mile underground collector system of 34.5 kV electric cables feeds the power generated by the turbines to a substation, which boosts the voltage to 230 kV and into the Hydro?Quebec network transmission line.

Even before a ceremonial groundbreaking in June 2015, the site had been cleared the previous fall in preparation for access roads. In late May, construction of access roads and the collector system began. Later that summer, Borea placed the concrete foundations and began construction of the transformer substation.

 
 The blades and five-part towers were manufactured locally in Quebec by Danish-owned turbine blade maker LM Wind Power in Gaspé and Marmen Energie Inc. in Matane. At 183 feet, each blade is described as being the longest in Canada.
  

By late summer, foundations for all 47 wind turbines had been excavated, and work on collector grid trenches and construction of a connection substation also began.

Each wind turbine base was poured on a housekeeping pad, and all the surfaces were completed by mid-September. With a diameter of 60 feet, each foundation required about 70 truckloads of concrete.

Developing a temporary concrete plant greatly sped construction of the foundations. All 47 were poured before the cold of winter set in.

During the 2015-16 winter, Hydro-Quebec TransÉnergie continued to erect nearly 15 miles of transmission line between the wind farm substation and the Matapédia-Cascapédia line near Pointe-à-la-Croix. The new line connected the MU wind farm to the company's transmission network.

Once the snow melted in spring 2016, crews had to repair access roads. A particularly wet June forced workers to spend more time than anticipated dealing with mud and leveling surfaces before components could begin arriving in late May.

Turbine components were delivered to the construction site via Chemin Cédrico from the municipality of Sainte-Florence, then over Chemin Lacroix. The route had no homes, which minimized the impact to residents of Chemin d'Escuminac.

Construction of each turbine followed a systematic approach. First, an excavation was prepared to place the wind turbine's foundation insert section, which was set into the concrete foundation. The foundation was then prepared to receive the electrical equipment at the foot of the wind turbine.

Next, the first section of the tower was erected and fixed to the foundation insert section. At the same time, workers assembled the three blades and hub on the ground.

Each of the four other sections of the tower were lifted into position with a crane and bolted together. The nacelle was then positioned and secured.

Finally the three blades and the hub, which were assembled on the ground, were lifted into place and bolted on.

Installation of the first 3.2-MW turbine on June 19, 2016, was a milestone, since it was at the time the largest in Québec.

Workers also excavated trenches, installed the cables, and then backfilled along the 48 miles of the electrical collector system.

Work progressed throughout the summer, with the last wind turbine component delivered in late September. Construction on the last turbine wrapped up in late November. All told, more than 850 workers participated in the construction of the Mesgi'g Ugju's'n Wind Farm, including 110 Mi'gmaq members. The wind farm was inaugurated this past December during a ceremony that featured Mi'gmaq traditions.

 


September/October 2017