The Québec Government has undertaken to develop wind energy by means of a process involving calls for bids. Wind energy is therefore generated by companies with expertise in the field. Hydro-Québec Distribution launches the calls for bids and chooses projects based on the conditions set by the Government, in particular with respect to environmental protection, local community involvement, regional economic spin-offs and social acceptability.
The general preparation process
Before a wind farm is built, a project must pass successfully through several steps.
1. Information for host communities
Social acceptability is an essential condition for wind energy development. Bidders must first notify the communities and local authorities that will be affected, of their intention to start a wind energy project.
The key success factors for wind energy projects include:
- Public information
- Coordination of all stakeholders
2. Bidding process
Bidders must prepare their projects in compliance with the rules set out in Hydro-Québec Distribution’s call for bids. For example, in the case of calls for bids for 250 MW of wind energy generated by community and Aboriginal projects, the call for bids will stipulate that bidders must first show that they have met the ten basic requirements, as follows:
- Choice of site
- Electricity price
- Participation in project capitalization and control
- The bidder’s experience
- Technological maturity
- Connection and generating equipment integration times
- Wind turbines adapted to a cold climate, and the name of the chosen supplier
- Guaranteed regional wind farm content
- Québec wind farm content
- Wind measurement and anticipated production
Under the first of these basic requirements, every bidder must identify a site for its project, and must have taken steps to acquire the land or obtain the right to use it as a wind farm, in compliance with regional land use requirements.
If the site is on private land, this involves obtaining option contracts signed by the landowners concerned. If the site is on public land, the bidder must obtain a letter of intention (in French) from the Ministère de l’Énergie et des Ressources naturelles. Before producing the letter, the Minister consults the regional agencies, RCMs and local municipalities concerned. In addition, before granting right of use, the Government will also consult the First Nations separately.
Preparation of environmental impact assessments
If the bidder’s project is chosen by Hydro-Québec Distribution, and is for more than 10 MW, the bidder must produce an environmental impact assessment to examine the factors that influence the ecosystems and quality of life of local populations. This helps to identify any issues and minimize the impacts for communities and the environment. The assessment should also identify potential interactions or cumulative impacts. It must be sent to the Ministère du Ministère de l’Environnement et de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques (MELCC) .
As part of the environmental impact assessment, promoters and their consultants must produce inventories of birds of prey , chiroptera (bats) and Bicknell’s thrush. The sampling plans produced using these protocols must be checked by the regional wildlife development departments, at least a month before being implemented.
Wind generating projects of less than 10 MW are not subject to the same rules, although they must still be authorized by the Ministère du Développement durable, de l’Environnement, de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques. Bird of prey, bat and Bicknell thrush inventories must also be carried out.
Citizens can influence the decision-making process for a project that may have major environmental impacts by asking the Bureau d’audiences publiques sur l’environnement (BAPE) to hold a public consultation. The BAPE is the public’s gateway into the project authorization process. Members of the public may obtain information and express their concerns at the public hearings. The Ministère de l’Environnement, de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques (MELCC) will wait for the BAPE’s recommendations before issuing a certificate of authorization to the bidder.
MELCC authorizations and conditions
The Government receives the MELCC’s analyses and recommendations (produced from the BAPE report and the environmental impact assessment), and based on these documents, it authorizes or rejects the project, with or without amendments, on the conditions it determines. The Government publishes its decision in an order-in-council.
Before the project is carried out, the bidder must submit plans and specifications in order to obtain a certificate of authorization from the MELCC under section 22 of the Environment Quality Act. The certificate sets out any conditions that must be met. These conditions may include:
- A monitoring program for avian wildlife and bats (in French);
- A monitoring program for farmland brought back into cultivation;
- A landscape monitoring program;
- A telecommunications system monitoring program;
- Soundscape surveillance and monitoring programs;
- Waste management plan;
- Emergency measures plan;
- Aquatic wildlife protection program;
- Creation of a monitoring and coordination committee;
- Dismantling of the wind farm.
In addition to the conditions of the authorizations, promoters may draw on the good practices set out in the Best Practices Guide for Monitoring Committees and Legal Obligations of Mining and Petroleum Project Promoters .
The chosen bidder must provide the MELCC with proof of sufficient financing, either by means of a deposit in trust or by giving firm guarantees that it is able to obtain the amount required to cover the full cost of dismantling the wind farm. It must also dismantle the wind farm at the end of its contract with Hydro-Québec Distribution (HQD), unless otherwise agreed with HQD.