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As the scientific evidence of climate change becomes ever more frightening, the collapse of Skypower Wind Energy Fund LP offers a cautionary tale of the barriers faced by renewable energy.

Windmill

Two years ago, this partnership raised $77 million to build a 201 MW wind energy plant in Riviere-du-Loup, Quebec. It already had the land, the turbines, and a 21-year power purchase agreement with Hydro Quebec, and was located in Quebec, the Canadian province most favourable to renewable energy. But the project ignited local resistance. In 2006, the Regional Municipality of Riviere-du-Loup changed local zoning and setback rules, significantly reducing the size of windfarm that could be built on the site, and significantly increasing its costs. Despite “strenuous efforts” to rescue the project, the partnership is now seeking its members’ consent to give up. It is not yet clear how much the investors will lose.This case is another reminder that good technology, while indispensable, is nowhere near enough to change our energy mix. The social and bureaucratic aspects of change are often the most difficult to manage.

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The more you understand, the easier it is to manage well.

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