Wind turbines: Boralex’s room for maneuver melts in the seigneury of Beaupré

The room for maneuver is decreasing considerably for Boralex and the development of its wind farms in the seigneury of Beaupré, northeast of Quebec. Forced to remove wind turbines for technical and environmental reasons, the company reminds the Ministry of the Environment that it risks not being able to respect its contractual commitments.

Boralex, in partnership with Hydro-Québec and Énergir, is currently preparing three distinct phases of wind turbine development in the seigneury of Beaupré, a private territory of 1,600 km2 belonging to the Seminary of Quebec.

Grouped under the aegis of the Des Neiges wind project, each phase initially planned the installation of 60 to 80 wind turbines, for a total power estimated at 1,200 megawatts by 2027.

For each of them, Boralex has a contractual electricity supply agreement of 400 megawatts with Hydro-Québec. These are three separate, legal contracts with their own clausesexplains Katheryne Coulombe, spokesperson for Boralex.

The cost of each phase is estimated at $1 billion.

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The map of the different wind farm projects in the seigneury of Beaupré.

Photo: Screenshot / Boralex

Financial viability

Asked to comment on the most recent developments of the project, Ms. Coulombe admits concerns, in particular for the Charlevoix sector.

Boralex’s fears are reflected in a phase 2 optimization report made public last week, as part of the environmental assessment process. It was produced in response to comments made by experts from Environment and Climate Change Canada and the Ministry of the Environment, the Fight against Climate Change, Wildlife and Parks (MELCCFP).

According to this report commissioned by Boralex, it is imperative that the installed power matches the contractual commitments agreed with Hydro-Québec as part of the electricity purchase contract. It is therefore wind turbines”,”text”:”necessary to maintain a minimum of 67 wind turbines”}}”>necessary to maintain a minimum of 67 wind turbineswarns the company.

The Boralex document lists 68 potential locations for wind turbines at present, compared to 86 during the first version of phase 2, in 2021. At least 14 sites have since been withdrawn for reasons of technical feasibility.

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The topography, water environments and the different habitats of animal, fish or plant species must be considered as part of the environmental assessment. (Archive photo)

Photo: Radio-Canada/Jean-François Nadeau

The promoter now agrees to subtract from 4 to 5 others to protect the habitat of the woodland caribou, in addition to being open to slightly moving certain sites so as not to harm the Bicknell’s thrush, a threatened bird nesting in several sectors of the Des Neiges project.

Boralex announces in passing that it will not be able to do much more if it wishes to maintain the profitability of phase 2, arguing that the quality of the wind resource is an issue.

As part of the Charlevoix sector project, the difference in productivity between the best positions and the weakest is 25%., she pleads. No longer spoiled for choice, there is a fear of not achieving the desired power of 400 megawatts with locations with lower potential.

Any additional subsequent movement therefore implies a relocation to a location with significantly lower performance, putting the financial viability of the project at risk.

A quote from Extract from a recent Boralex optimization report for phase 2

Slowed down by the caribou

The case of the woodland caribou could, in itself, prove fatal for phase 2 of the Des Neiges project.

If Boralex stated from the outset that there would be no no impact on the deer, Quebec and Ottawa called, in their comments, for additional measures to avoid the disturbance of its habitat.

Technically, the Charlevoix sector has 17 wind turbines in the woodland caribou range. According to the promoter, the complete removal of the 17 locations […] would make the project unviable, which would result in stopping the development process.

There would then only be 55 locations left, well below the profitability threshold put forward by Boralex.

The company therefore proposes to remove 4 wind turbines from the same sector located near a small area of ​​critical habitat identified on the territory of the Des Neiges project, as well as the movement or removal of another wind turbine which is located the limit of known caribou habitat.

>>A herd of woodland caribou through a sparse forest.>>

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The Charlevoix caribou herd has been living in enclosures since winter 2022. Part of its range is located in the seigneury of Beaupré. (File photo).

Photo: Courtesy: Jean-Simon Bégin

As for other positions located in the range, Boralex asserts that the majority of the territory is already heavily disturbed and that the installation of wind turbines would not have any significant additional impact for the caribou. These areas are already entirely located in zones of influence of permanent disturbances and outside critical habitat for woodland caribou.insists Boralex.

The completion of the Charlevoix sector involves the addition of 85 kilometers of forest roads, known to disturb caribou, and the deforestation of some 86.4 hectares of forest. According to data presented in the Boralex project analysis, it is estimated that wind turbines can have an impact within a radius of 4 kilometers.

As for Bicknell’s thrush, Boralex offers to microposition wind turbines where thrush has been detectedto move certain wind turbines if necessary or to modify the routes of certain access paths.

>>Bicknell's Thrush, an endangered species found in the boreal forests of eastern Canada.>>

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Bicknell’s Thrush is an endangered species found in the boreal forests of eastern Canada. (Archive photo)

Photo: Environment and Climate Change Canada | Government of Canada

Flexibility

Removing too many locations would also affect the choice of wind turbine model for Boralex, which will have to proceed by call for tenders.

The company is currently considering the purchase of wind turbines of 6 to 7 megawatts of power. The number of locations required, 67 wind turbines, corresponds to the minimum required to reach 400 megawatts if the solution chosen is that of 6 megawatts per installation.

If Boralex decided to opt for wind turbines of 7 megawatts each, the minimum number of locations would then be 57. The promoter pleads the importance of room for maneuver, particularly for its infrastructure acquisition processes, but also in the event of unforeseen events in the field.

>>Timeline with important dates.>>

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The different stages of preparation and timelines for Boralex wind farm projects in Côte-de-Beaupré and Charlevoix

Photo: Screenshot / Boralex

This was also Boralex’s second optimization report for phase 2. For phase 1, three such reports were necessary before passing the stage of admissibility of the impact study by the government. provincial.

For phase 1, Boralex initially presented 83 locations. The latest version of the project, submitted to the Office of Public Hearings on the Environment (BAPE), whose report is expected in June, included 67 locations, also close to the minimum thresholds.

During these hearings, a company representative declared that Boralex was leaning towards developing 57 wind turbines of 7 megawatts each. In the case of phase 1, the proximity to Mont Sainte-Anne in particular aroused fears among residents, particularly regarding the landscape. A buffer zone was then requested.

For phase 3, that is, the western sector, the promoter has not yet submitted its environmental assessment and the potential sites have not yet been revealed.

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