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Manitoba Hydro plans to build a 300-megawatt wind farm at St. Joseph, Man.

Manitoba's NDP government and the province's hydro utility said Monday they have signed a deal to develop what would be the largest wind farm in Canada, near St. Joseph in southern Manitoba.

The project is worth more than $800 million and would generate 300 megawatts of electricity from 130 turbines. The farm is being developed by Babcock & Brown Canada ULC, which is to sell the power to Manitoba Hydro.

Both Manitoba Premier Gary Doer and Manitoba Hydro CEO Bob Brennan described the project as the largest of its kind in Canada. Manitoba opened a 99-megawatt wind farm near the town of St. Leon in 2006.

"This new wind farm underlines Manitoba’s position as a leader in clean energy and will bring economic and environmental benefits to the local municipalities, Manitoba and the region," Doer said. 

The wind farm will bring the province closer to achieving its goal of an installed capacity of 1,000 megawatts of aeolian, or wind, power. 

The project is still subject to regulatory approvals and a power-purchase agreement. Construction is expected to start in 2009, with power deliveries as early as 2011.

Schedule to be determined

The exact schedule will depend on the availability of materials and equipment for the wind turbines and related transmission facilities.

"The St. Joseph wind farm will add another renewable resource to Manitoba’s considerable portfolio of renewable hydroelectric generating facilities," Brennan said.  

Local landowners will receive $70 million in lease payments. Environmental benefits include displacing 800,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions annually, Brennan said — the equivalent of taking 145,000 cars off the road.

Manitoba Hydro will buy wind-generated power as part of a proposed 25-year agreement with Babcock & Brown’s North American Energy Group, which has interests in more than 20 wind farms across North America with an aggregate value in excess of $3 billion.

The group has worked closely on this project with local residents and Calgary-based wind developer BowArk Energy.

"Babcock & Brown is pleased to have reached this stage of the wind procurement process and we thank Manitoba Hydro for selecting the St. Joseph wind project," said Hunter Armistead, head of Babcock & Brown’s North American Energy Group.

"We look forward to a long and mutually beneficial relationship with local communities, Manitoba Hydro and the province of Manitoba."

Roger Vermette, reeve of the Rural Municipality of Montcalm, said the project will bring in almost $500,000 to the municipal coffers, a third of the total budget.

"We've been waiting for economic development for many, many years and this is the best news we've had in a long time," he said. "It means local jobs, it means gravel companies, it means cement companies, it means labourers and so on."