Multibrid, the German maker of the M5000 offshore wind turbine that is majority owned by French nuclear giant Areva, says it wants to build a turbine manufacturing plant in North America and believes Ontario is an ideal location. A Multibrid representative told reporters in Toronto today that there are 22 offshore wind projects proposed in North America, many of them to be located in the Great Lakes. He said southern Ontario is centrally located, has good highway, rail and waterway access through the St. Lawrence, has local steelmaking capacity, and has a skilled manufacturing base that makes it a strong candidate for a plant.
A recent report from Helimax Energy Inc. estimated there are 64 offshore wind sites on the Ontario side of the Great Lakes alone, representing 35,000 megawatts of development potential. To make Ontario even more attractive, Trillium Power — a Toronto company that wants to develop a 750 MW wind farm in Lake Ontario, and possibly a second of equal size — has created a buying consortium called Tai Wind. The consortium includes Trillium and Fisherman’s Energy of New Jersey, which is proposing two offshore projects off the coasts of Massachusetts and New Jersey. So far, Tai Wind represents a potential of 300 turbine purchases, but it is in talks with six other offshore developers about joining the consortium. With enough potential orders under its belt, Tai Wind hopes to assure Multibrid that there’s enough demand in the market to justify building its plant in Ontario. At the same time, consortium members would be assured easier access to offshore turbines that would otherwise have to come from Europe at greater expense and after a lengthy wait. As a developer, said Kourtoff, “you’re simply not going to get an offshore turbine unless you get a manufacturer here.”
Joshua Magee, a wind energy analyst with Emerging Energy Research, told me earlier that the idea of creating a buying consortium in North America for offshore wind turbines is an interesting strategy. “It would certainly be unique,” he said.
If Ontario wants the manufacturing — and after watching our automotive and forestry sectors get pummelled, believe me, it does — then it likely has to approve and sign a PPA for the Trillium project in Lake Ontario or some other Great Lakes offshore project. This would show its commitment to offshore, and give Multibrid some degree of certainty for local turbine demand. If the government isn’t prepared to purchase offshore wind power (and soon), one can only guess that Multibrid will look to other jurisdictions more willing to act. I just spoke this evening with Donna Cansfield, Ontario’s minister of natural resources, and she said she’s excited about the potential investment from Multibrid and is confident the government is ready to talk business.
Time, of course, is off the essence. If Ontario doesn’t jump I’m sure Michigan, or New York, or Ohio would be more than willing to welcome Multibrid. And indeed, there’s nothing stopping these states from trying to pre-empt any move to Ontario with attractive incentives. One thing for certain is that offshore wind in the Great Lakes is now in play, and it is Ontario’s opportunity to lose.