Hydro-Québec announces $9B wind power project, one of the largest in North America

Hydro-Québec has announced its plans to create a $9-billion wind farm in the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region that could become one of the largest in North America.

The Pekuakamiulnuatsh First Nation, Atikamekw of Wemotaci and the municipality of Domaine-du-Roy, Que., announced a partnership with Hydro-Québec on Wednesday to develop the Chamouchouane zone.

The area of 5,000 sq. km could generate up to 3,000 megawatts as part of the utility's strategy to increase wind power capacity in the coming years.

A few weeks ago, Hydro-Quebec reiterated the need for 10,000 megawatts of new wind power generated by 2035 to meet the demand for renewable energy, says spokesperson Caroline Des Rosiers.

She says this project plays an important part and could result in over 400 new turbines.

"[It's] a lot," said Des Rosiers.

"In the past 20 years in the province of Quebec, we developed 4,000 megawatts. So we're looking to develop almost equal [that] amount."

She says there is an appetite in the communities to develop wind power.

Starting next month, partners will start initiatives to confirm a first project in the area, including consultations and the installation of equipment to collect data on wind quality.

This partnership is historic, says Chief Gilbert Dominique of Pekuakamiulnuatsh First Nation.

"Our communities must be at the heart of large-scale projects such as this one, particularly when it comes to social acceptability. In this sense, the involvement of community partners is essential," said Dominique in a press release Wednesday.

This project also has the opportunity to provide communities with some financial autonomy for housing and services, says Jon-Evan Quoquochi, vice-chief of Wemotaci.

"They are happy to see that we are actually working for a better life," said Quoquochi. "But also there's so much question."

Some of those questions are about how this project could affect caribou populations and even some of the sacred burial lands of the community.

A public consultation period for the project will begin later this year, with construction tentatively scheduled for around 2028.