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updated 10/5/2004 10:08:35 AM ET 2004-10-05T14:08:35

A $1.5 billion windmill power project unveiled by Quebec will more than double Canada's output of wind energy and install 660 turbines in the province.

Quebec Premier Jean Charest said the announcement is just the beginning for the province, which has asked for new proposals to produce an additional 1,000 megawatts of wind power above and beyond Monday's numbers.

"Quebec has already proven it's a world leader in hydroelectricity," Charest said. "We will make Quebec a leader in wind power too."

Two private companies will build and operate eight wind turbine farms in eastern Quebec to produce 1,000 megawatts of power by 2012 under bids selected by Hydro-Quebec, which is owned by the province and is one of North America’s top electricity generators.

$1.6 billion in annual revenue
The project will push Quebec well beyond the 371 megawatts of wind power currently produced in all of Canada.

"With this initiative, Quebec clearly signals it is the leader with respect to wind power development in Canada," said Robert Hornung, president of the Canadian Wind Energy Association.

By 2012, Cartier Wind Energy and Northland Power Income Fund are expected to collect a total of about $1.6 billion a year from Hydro-Quebec for the wind power under the 20-year contracts.

The average power cost of the eight accepted bids is 6.5 Canadian cents per kilowatt hour, Hydro-Quebec said.

'Largest single award' ever
While Quebec is becoming Canada's leader in wind energy, such power will still account for less than three percent of the province's electricity. Denmark (16 percent), Germany (six percent) and Spain (five percent) are world leaders in switching to wind power, Hornung said.

Quebec's 7.4 million people currently get most of their power from hydroelectric projects.

GE Energy, which is supplying the turbines, called the contract "the largest single award for new wind generation capacity in the history of the global wind energy industry." (GE Energy is a unit of GE, which also owns NBC, one of the partners in MSNBC.)

The turbines used will feature technology allowing them to operate in "extremely cold weather," GE Energy said.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.


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