Friday, April 15, 2011

Good Pickens in the Wind

By Parker Gallant Back in May 2008, T. Boone Pickens, the billionaire Texas oil baron placed an order with GE for wind turbines. The order was for $2-billion. He had a vision to create the largest wind project in the world in Texas. By July of 2009 however, the “Pickens Plan” was postponed. Tight financial markets and trouble distributing the energy were given as the principal reasons. By that time the US was in the midst of a deep recession, demand for power had fallen and shale gas was front and centre on the energy scene so I’m sure some of that played into the decision. Thankfully for Mr. Pickens, the Ontario Liberals had just passed the Green Energy Act and his Mesa Power Group founded the American Wind Alliance (AWA) and discovered Ontario. The AWA linked up with Chuck Edey, President of Leader Resources Services Corp out of Kincardine, Ontario. Leader was and still is a developer and seller of wind projects, including a 200 MW wind project that they developed and sold to Enbridge. Mr. Edey was also President of Echo Energy, an Ontario based operating gas company out of London, and listed on the TSX Venture Exchange. Since 2003, Echo lost almost $30 million of shareholders funds which was blamed on the falling gas market. Presumably, as a result, Echo were petitioned into bankruptcy by their secured lender and the court appointed KPMG as receiver manager. KPMG in turn appointed Mr. Edey’s, Leader Resources to manage Echo’s assets under their watchful eye. As was recently reported in the London Free Press the winning bidder (out of four reportedly received) was Magmum Gas Corp. Co-incidentally the President of Magmum is Mr. Edey. According to the above noted article the OSC is reportedly trying to ferret out some information on the various relationships but KPMG will not disclose what they are seeking, so the OSC may be forced to take the matter before the courts. Despite the turmoil, Leader has moved several projects forward on behalf of AWA and Mr. Pickens. Two of these represent 265 MW and will hook up to the Bruce Milton transmission lines that Hydro One are currently constructing. Two others totalling 300 MW are also on the Ontario Power Authority’s (OPA) priority list. These four were the only ones identifiable when I asked the OPA to provide information. The reason the OPA spokesperson was unable to provide the information was; “The FIT contract management process requires project proponents to submit applications under a legal applicant name and project legal name; therefore, we cannot verify if these projects are owned by a larger corporate entity or counter party.” So it appears the OPA cannot tell us who is behind any of the wind turbine contracts that they actually sign! The list of projects the OPA sent was a list that went to nine (9) pages. A quick tally of the “priority” wind projects indicated we should expect another 6,000 MW (approximately 3000 turbines) of wind to enter the grid over the next couple of years further driving up the costs of electricity. On the AWA projects I was able to discern that Mr. Pickens will find a good home for some of those turbines that he ordered; as GE turbines were identified as ones that would be erected at two of the projects. The projects will presumably somehow meet the “local content” requirement under the Green Energy Act, although local council in Saugeen Shores has established much tougher setback rules then the GEA requires for one of the two approved Leader led projects. Parker Gallant,April 13, 2011


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