Hydropower, Project Development, Wind Power

Canadian Cooperative Shares Wind Project Development Model

Canadian communities interested in taking a cooperative approach to local wind power development will soon have access to the expertise developed by the Val-Eo cooperative.

Val-Eo will receive financial support from the Government of Canada’s Cooperatives Secretariat under the Cooperative Development Initiative program to complete the development of its innovative model for wind resource development and to share the model with communities in Quebec and the rest of Canada. Other partners will be approached in the near future to complete the funding of the project. The mission of the Val-Eo co-operative is to develop wind resources in the agricultural plain in the southern portion of the Regional County Municipality of Lac-Sain-Jean-Est. Val-Eo was established in the fall of 2005 and now has more than 55 member farms. Its objectives are to enhance the economic benefits of wind power for land owners and for the community as a whole and to develop wind resources sustainably and with some measure of local control. According to Patrick Cote, Val-Eo project officer, several groups have contacted Val-Eo in recent months to request a transfer of expertise. “People were asking us to share our organizational tools, but those tools were developed at substantial cost to our cooperative. Since we have noted that there is a strong interest in what we are doing, we are pleased to be able, thanks to the financial support of the Cooperative Development Initiative, to propose a winning solution for communities interested in taking an approach similar to ours. Communities interested in learning more will be able to contact Val-Eo.” Many organizations (such as Desjardins, Nutrinor, Cain Lamarre Casgrain Wells, the UPA, La Coop Federee, the Centre de Recherche et de Developpement en Agriculture and the network of regional development cooperatives) have collaborated in the development of Val-Eo by contributing their expertise. There are many challenges involved, since the developed model must be truly fair to land owners and local residents, while remaining financially effective. The president of the cooperative, Remy Boulianne, stated that there are many examples both in Europe and the United States of wind power projects initiated by rural communities and said these projects have been extremely successful. These collective projects, unlike the large corporate wind farms such as those in the Gaspe, create far more local employment and minimize any impact that may be involved, thus making the projects more acceptable to communities. “There is an example in Minnesota, where farmers hold 85% of the shares in a wind farm,” Boulianne said. “They started with an initial phase of four wind turbines, then moved on to a second phase and they are now on phase three. These people are a real source of inspiration to us.” At a recent general meeting, the members of Val-Eo voted in favor of a business plan to conduct wind measurement and technical feasibility studies in preparation for the launch of an initial wind power project. Val-Eo immediately installed two wind-measuring masts in addition to the one it already had. With these three wind measuring masts and the technical feasibility studies it will conduct, Val-Eo will be able on its own to meet the requirements of Hydro-Quebec calls for tender and will thus not lag behind major companies and wind prospectors. During that same general meeting, farmers belonging to the co-operative also assigned their administrators to work on the emergence of a collective project that would involve regional players and would allow local municipalities, businesses and residents to invest together with agricultural producers. As no website was provided, please use the e-mail address for Patrick Cote, project officer, Val-Eo cooperative, as your contact [[email protected]].