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

The project could eventually generate up to 9MW of renewable power in Montreal from 46 riverbed turbines.

BECANCOUR – The Quebec government is helping to bankroll a $130-million project by RER Hydro, Hydro-Quebec 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.

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 on Monday that development of an industrial turbine sector has great potential for Quebec, especially because of the potential export opportunities.

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.

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, says RER Hydro CEO Imad Hamad.

RER and Boeing, the US 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.

©The Canadian Press