300 Megawatt Wind Farm To Be Developed On First Nations Land

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A 300-megawatt Ontario wind farm is soon to be built as a collaboration between a First Nations subsidiary and an international energy company.

Pattern Development has secured $1 billion in financing for the Henvey Inlet Wind Energy Centre (HIWEC), which is situated entirely on Henvey Inlet First Nation (HIFN) Reserve No. 2 lands on French River #13. The wind farm is being jointly developed and operated by Pattern Development and HIFN wholly owned subsidiary Nigig Power Corporation (NPC).

“This landmark project is a first on many fronts: largest wind project in Ontario, largest on-reserve wind installation in Canada, highest hub heights in North America, and the first to develop a First Nation Environmental Stewardship Regime under the First Nations Lands Management Act,” Mike Garland, CEO of Pattern Development, said. Pattern Development will hold a 50% interest in the project, while NPC will hold the other 50%.

The wind farm will use 87 Vestas 3.45 MW turbines with a 136-metre rotor diameter and 132-metre hub height. The project has a 20-year power purchase agreement with the Independent Electricity System Operator for 100% of its production.

wind farm
Graphic courtesy Henvey Inlet Wind

“We are proud to be partners with Henvey Inlet First Nation,” Garland continued. “Together we’re excited to kick off construction on this historic project that will harness the strong and steady winds blowing across the Georgian Bay to create hundreds of local jobs and provide a significant new source of revenue for Henvey Inlet First Nation.”

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HIFN is an Anishinabek community comprised of three separate reserve properties.

  • Henvey Inlet Reserve No. 2 is on the northeast shore of the Georgian Bay, 90 km south of Sudbury and 71 km north of Parry Sound.
  • French River Reserve No.13 is 11 km north of the Reserve No. 2 and includes Cantin Island.
  • There are about 900 enrolled members of the Robinson-Huron Treaty band, with approximately 200 of those residing on Reserve.

Wind Energy & Financial Benefits for Henvey Inlet First Nation

“This will be the first wind power project on First Nation land, representing an economic turning point in which we are creating a prosperous future,” said Chief Wayne McQuabbie of HIFN. “This project’s watershed permitting and real estate regime sets an example for responsible economic development that protects and preserves First Nation land while also generating revenue for future generations.”

Once operational, the HIWEC will provide an inexhaustible, clean, renewable energy resource that will benefit the environment and help fight climate change. Compatible with mixed land use, the wind farm will generate long-term, stable revenue for HIFN and stimulate the local and regional economy by creating job opportunities during the construction phase and afterward.

“Imagine seeing wind turbines dotting the horizon on First Nations lands and territories,” Jennifer Ashawasegai wrote in the Anishinabek News. “There are high hopes that harnessing naturally-occurring winds can help build economies that communities so badly need to escape poverty.”

Graphic courtesy Henvey Inlet Wind

The project will create up to 500 jobs during construction, as well as about 15 permanent full-time jobs and also more than 100 ongoing indirect jobs. HIFN has prioritized the involvement of First Nation workers, contractors, and businesses where possible and for tasks for which they meet the necessary qualifications.

“We aren’t just building a wind farm, we’re building an economy,” said Ken Noble, president and CEO of Nigig. “The net proceeds over the next two decades of operations will provide the financial resources to transform the local economy, expand all community services, relieve poverty, and create employment.”

HIWEC will generate clean power for approximately 100,000 Ontario homes each year. It is expected to spur lease royalties of more than $8 million annually for the HIFN, in addition to significant income from project distributions.

wind farmTargeted to be operational in 2019, the HIWEC necessitates ongoing dialogue with community members to ensure that they move forward together in a direction that provides significant local benefits and proactive decision making. Proceeds will be managed by a community trust, which has been charged to conduct a membership referendum and extensive consultation to determine the use of funds. Examples of possibilities include:

  • Expanded band services, especially in areas of health, education, elder services and support, youth services and support, language instruction and retention, and housing.
  • Reinvestment in business expansion, new research, and business development.
  • Some payments directly to band members as a “dividend.”
  • Subsidized hydro bills.

Events that Led to the First Nations Wind Farm

In 1998, the Ontario Medical Association declared air pollution a public health crisis in the region, with coal-fired power plants as major contributors to the smog problem. The province committed to phasing out coal-fired generation in 2002, and the development of wind energy helped Ontario meet that goal in 2014.

wind farm
Photo collage courtesy Pattern Development

With the wind development market exploding onto Canada’s energy industry scene in the years prior to the project, in 2010, HIFN incorporated NPC for the sole purpose of developing a wind energy center, intended to provide economic benefits for community and the surrounding area. 401 Energy Inc., previously selected as a development partner, was unable to meet the FIT Program requirements, so the relationship was terminated in March 2010. The search continued on unstymied. NPC partnered with Pattern Development in 2014 to complete and bring the HIWEC to reality. During the research and inquiry phase, the team hosted multiple events to provide the community with opportunities to meet representatives of Pattern Development, NPC, and the construction team, as well as learn about HIWEC, ask questions, and provide comments.

The HIWEC project aligns with UN Development Program recommendations, which outline that, in order to develop successful wind power, an adequate enabling environment and long-term, stable, comprehensive public policies with strong political commitment must be in place.

Today, turbines are harnessing the wind across the province and generating clean, homegrown energy without producing any harmful emissions and without using water to operate.

Pattern Development’s Renewable Energy Finance Partnership Model

Pattern Development focuses on renewable energy and transmission assets and has developed, financed, and placed into operation more than 4,500 MW of wind power projects. Acknowledged for working closely with communities to create renewable energy projects, the company was the first to successfully develop a utility-scale wind energy project on Native American lands in the US and includes work with the Bureau of Land Management to install wind power projects on those lands.

Pattern Development offers a partnership structure through transformational finance strategies that has been become a model in the wind and solar energy sectors.

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Carolyn Fortuna

Carolyn Fortuna, PhD, is a writer, researcher, and educator with a lifelong dedication to ecojustice. Carolyn has won awards from the Anti-Defamation League, The International Literacy Association, and The Leavey Foundation. Carolyn is a small-time investor in Tesla and an owner of a 2022 Tesla Model Y as well as a 2017 Chevy Bolt. Please follow Carolyn on Substack: https://carolynfortuna.substack.com/.

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