By Collin Gallant on September 15, 2018.
This week saw the start of construction on the Whitla Wind Farm, and from here you might be able to see another wave of potential project approvals coming later this year.
Monday marks the opening day for utility companies to submit bids in this year’s current rounds of the Alberta renewable energy procurement auction.
The same process in 2017 led to the final go ahead for Capital Power to construct the $325-million facility, 58-turbine first phase of the Whitla facility, south of Bow Island.
Now industry observers, local economic developers and companies are anxiously awaiting 2018 supply contract awards that will be due in December.
At least four other major projects in the region have already progressed to open house consultations in local communities, could be strong candidates.
It could mean up to a $1 billion of construction in southeast Alberta.
Theresa Hardiker is the executive director of the Southeast Alberta Economic Development Alliance, which has long promoted the area as a having strong wind and weather patterns.
However, no final go ahead was given, or ground broke this week, about 10 months after last year’s energy auction.
“People really like to have a visual of construction underway,” said Hardiker.
“We’ve seen how the process works and the developer’s process. Now we’re on the other side and we know there will be other proposals from companies, because we know this is the area that they can thrive in.”
In this year’s schedule successful bids will be announced in December 2018 to be in service about 18 months later in June of 2021.
Round one was slated to award 400 megawatts to producers with the lowest price, but because of record low prices, projects totalling more than 600 megawatts were selected.
The winning firms were — Capital Power, along with Enel Energy projects in southwest Alberta, and a major facility near Oyen EDP Renewables, which is still being considered by the Alberta Utilities Commission for final approval.
The current work at Whitla, to erect 58 turbines with a total capacity of about 200 megawatts is only the first of two planned phases. An expansion would add another 100 megawatts of generating capacity.
“That will probably be our entry in this round,” said Jerry Bellikka, Capital Power’s director of government relations.
“We have approval from the AUC to build Whitla II. And They’ve looked very carefully at the cumulative effects of having a number of projects in the same area… (but) it’s all dependent on who else is bidding and what price they offer.”
But they’re not the only one with facility plans near Bow Island.
Earlier this year, AUC held technical meetings to best determine how to accommodate three companies including Capital Power, which major projects with overlapping geographic footprints in the area south of Bow Island.
Renewable firm BCEH-RES announced last April it was building a supply bid for its Forty Mile Wind project. It plans to produce 400-megawatts in the area east of Bow Island.
A Suncor project, also titled Forty Mile Wind, would be of a similar size, and with 96 turbines would be much larger than four of the company’s field currently in operation.
They are among a half dozen utility companies with projects in the counties of Forty Mile of Cypress County are expected to advance major facilities in the Alberta Electric System procurement auction.
Rounds two and three are being held concurrently this year, with one with a target of 400 megawatts an another for 300 megawatts of capacity from projects that include ownership by indigenous communities.