June 28th, 2017

Prairie Rose seeing positives in second year of renewable energy contract


By Tim Kalinowski on June 19, 2017.


tkalinowski@medicinehatnews.com
@MHNTimKal

As Prairie Rose School Division continues into its second year of a 25-year agreement with BluEarth Renewables through the Alberta Schools Commodity Purchasing Consortium, secretary-treasurer Ryan Boser says the division likes what it’s seeing so far.

“There was a couple of different reasons why we decided to get into this,” says Boser. “Essentially the province wants to produce more green energy, and it’s our chance as a school board to make sure we are doing our part to be responsible with the environment. And also from a financial standpoint, there was a lot of analysis that was done. It’s a 25-year deal to purchase power through this wind farm, and we foresee some substantial savings over the life of the agreement for our school board.”

BluEarth’s power generating asset is the Bull Creek Wind Farm located near Provost. The power from the farm is not sold directly back to the division, but rather for every megawatt of power used in the PRSD the Bull Creek Wind Farm generates a megawatt to put back into the grid.

“There was no upfront cost to join up,” explains Boser. “We are not owners in the project. We are simply purchasing electricity through the wind farm. Our electricity in the division costs us approximately $450,000 per year. Most of that is now purchased through the wind farm.”

That amounts to about $420,000, says Boser. PRSD is locked into a rate which is slightly above market price through Bull Creek, but as Alberta moves into more green energy generation over the next few years, the savings will become more apparent, he says.

“The whole idea of this project, as Alberta continues its movement to phase out coal in the province, the expectation from the analysis was the prices are going to go up,” explains Boser. “That’s when we are going to start seeing a significant savings; that’s supposed to happen in anywhere from year seven to 10 of the 25-year agreement.”

However, buying power from BluEarth Renewables has another tangible benefit which makes it an even more attractive option: PRSD sold is share of the carbon credits for the project for $35,000 in 2016, more than offsetting the above market rate the division is paying to the company.

“The carbon credits gives our budget some relief,” Boser confirms. “Even though we might be currently paying a little higher for electrical prices, the carbon credits easily offset that overage… Because we can sell these carbon credits, we are already coming in at under market price. So this Bull Creek Wind Farm agreement is saving us money already.”

According to an email statement from BluEarth Renewables received on Friday, the partnership works well for both school divisions and the company by providing long-term financial stability.

“Wind power is an ideal source of energy to meet the needs of the Alberta Schools Commodity Purchasing Consortium because it has no fuel-price risk (wind is free) nor carbon tax, and therefore it has long-term cost predictability. This allows school boards to budget against a known long-term price for power and keep dollars in the classrooms, as opposed to being exposed to fluctuations in the market,” it read.


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