Quebec funds efforts by RER Hydro, Boeing to build river turbine farm

The Canadian Press
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The Quebec government is helping to bankroll a $130-million project by RER Hydro, Hydro-Québec and Boeing to generate clean energy on the St. Lawrence River in what officials say would be the world’s largest river-generated turbine farm.

Quebec Premier Pauline Marois delivers a closing speech to delegates at a Parti Quebecois convention in Montreal Sunday. Marois said a river turbine hydro project her government is helping to fund is part of Quebec’s plan to provide new energy and create jobs. She said the production of turbines has “great economic potential” for her province. — Photo by The Canadian Press

The three-phase project could eventually culminate in nine megawatts of renewable power being generated in Montreal from 46 riverbed turbines, with installation beginning in 2016.

The province could contribute up to a maximum of $85 million in equity and loans. That’s on top of the $3 million it has already provided RER Hydro Inc. for its initial $230-million prototype testing phase that lasted three years.

Quebec, which is a leader in production of hydroelectricity, hopes that the technology will take off and support the manufacture of about 500 turbines annually and some 600 direct and indirect jobs at RER Hydro’s plant in Becancour, near Trois-Rivieres.

Premier Pauline Marois said at the plant’s official opening Monday the government is actively helping new industries that hold promise for the Quebec economy, such as its strategy to support the electrification of transportation.

“Our participation in this partnership agreement will promote the development of the industrial sector of turbines, which has great economic potential for Quebec, particularly because of the significant export opportunities,” Marois said, while also stressing the job creation potential of the project.

The technology has global market potential and could supply electricity to isolated communities in northern Quebec not currently

connected to the provincial power grid.

The second phase of the project, estimated to cost $51.5 million, would install and test six turbines generating three-quarters of a megawatt of power near the Pont de la Concorde bridge near the Montreal Casino on Ste Helen’s Island. About 25 jobs would be created in Becancour and Montreal. It would mark the first commercial sale of RER Hydro’s technology.

If results are successful, about $81 million would be spent to install a demonstration fleet of 40 turbines beginning in 2016. That would create 90 direct jobs and 80 indirect jobs from various suppliers.

Unlike dams, the “hydrokinetic” turbines generate clean power without disrupting the river flow or the natural habitat of fish or other marine life, said RER Hydro CEO Imad Hamad.

“This new industry will help to further transform Quebec’s natural resources for the benefit of Quebecers,” Hamad said.

RER and Boeing, the U.S. aerospace and defence giant, signed an agreement last year giving Boeing exclusive rights to market and sell the turbines around the world.

Boeing is providing program management, engineering, manufacturing and supplier-management expertise, in addition to servicing the turbines.

“This agreement between industry and government will deliver renewable power while protecting the environment,” said Dennis Muilenburg, CEO of Boeing Defense, Space & Security. “It also builds on Boeing’s long-term, strategic partnership with Canada, supporting customers from aerospace and defence to clean energy, generating high-quality jobs and making a difference in the community.”

Boeing says it works with 40 suppliers in Quebec, contributing to the $1 billion in economic activity the company generates annually across Canada.

Organizations: Boeing, RER Hydro

Geographic location: Quebec, Montreal, Becancour Northern Quebec Canada U.S.

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