October 20th, 2019

Renewable Energy Program opens Friday

By Collin Gallant on March 28, 2017.

Powerlines line Range Road 63 south of the city limits. March 31 is the first day for utility companies to submit proposals for new facilities under the provincial Renewable Energy Program.--NEWS PHOTO EMMA BENNETT


And they’re off… or they will be on Friday.

After years of waiting for the Alberta Government to develop guidelines, Friday is the first day for utility companies to submit proposals for new facilities under the provincial Renewable Energy Program.

That process will ask for rate estimates for long-term supply contracts — a critical point for companies seeking to raise hundreds of millions of dollars in construction capital.

In southeastern Alberta, a number of planned wind farms could submit applications, the News has found, along with 10 or more new solar projects, including one in Suffield.

Competition could be stiff however, as proposals from across the province will enter a process that will award only 400-megawatts of supply contracts starting in 2019 to two or possibly three new facilities.

Energy Minister Margaret McCuaig-Boyd outlined the selection process at a press event in Calgary last week.

“I’ve been hearing a lot of interest from industry in anticipation of this launch,” she said in a release. “This will be a competitive process, bringing the most renewable generation online at the lowest cost.”

The winning bidders will be announced by the end of 2017.

Local observers have anxiously awaited details of the program first announced in 2015.

Bow Island Mayor Gordon Reynolds said new proposals have flooded his town over the past two years.

“Some of the companies, I can’t believe how patient they are,” he told the News on Monday.

“From a community standpoint, we’d love to see something happen. “Bow Island is the birthplace of the natural gas industry in Alberta, but that gas is long gone, and we’re poised to take part in the next energy boom.”

A recent report by the EDA of Southeast Alberta, Medicine Hat College and Alberta Labour states that over 13 years, 35 of the 83 total planning applications for green plants were based in the region.

Those are connected to budgets totalling $7.8 billion, 10,000 construction jobs over time and 400 permanent positions afterward.

Capital Power announced it would bid a planned 150-MW project, known as Whitla Windfarm, when the Edmonton-based utility released its 2017 guidance last December.

Other major utility companies Suncor and Fortis could also submit regional bids.

Furthest advanced are major wind farms near Medicine Hat, in Cypress county or the County of 40 Mile, proposed up to 10 years ago.

Naturener first proposed in 2006 the Wild Rose Wind 1 farm for an area due south of Medicine Hat.

More recently it applied to alter minor aspects of the approved 10-MW project, seeking the OK to use more efficient turbines, and also asking that the construction deadline be extended from this summer until spring 2019.

Along with the proposed Wild Rose Wind 2, Naturener has three other 100-MW projects in southeastern Alberta in the early stages of development.

The province hopes to transform power use to 30 per cent renewable energy by 2030, requiring investments of up to $10 billion to bring on 5,000 megawatts of green energy by then.

Another approved but delayed project, the Peace Butte Windfarm proposed by Pteregen, is a $200-million, 60-turbine, 120-MW wind farm near Seven Persons.

Alberta Wind Energy Corporation was formed in late 2016, with wind projects slated for Forty Mile, Magrath and Oyen to augment an existing wind farm near Lethbridge.

As for solar, GTE Power has proposed a 57,000-panel field near the Trans-Canada Highway entering Brooks that would produce 15 MW.

This month, the AUC approved the “Suffield Solar” project proposed by C&B Solar, a partnership of Canadian Solar Solutions Inc. and Bowmont Capital.

As proposed, a 22-MW facility northeast of Suffield sits alongside similarly-sized solar field proposals for Jenner, Hays, Newell County, Tilley, Taber and Vauxhall.

Each would be contained to about two quarter-sections containing tens of thousands of panels each.

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