October 20th, 2019

Wind farm near Oyen suffering from approval process delays

By COLLIN GALLANT on September 25, 2019.

cgallant@medicinehatnews.com@CollinGallant

Two of three companies awarded large renewable energy supply contracts in 2017 are on track to meet an end-of-year deadline to build facilities in southern Alberta, but a third, near Oyen, is delayed after a drawn-out regulatory approval process.

The Sharp Hills wind farm project, centred around Sedelia in the Special Areas, will move to another hearing before the Alberta Utility Commission next month, it was announced last week.

It comes one year after an initial application approval by regulators following opposition from residents in the area who cited questions of property values, unsightliness and quality of life issues.

A new application involves technical amendments – using higher capacity turbines and removing some tower locations in the $400-million project – while opponents successfully lobbied that the new matter require another hearing.

EDPR did not respond to interview requests from the News, though a construction update filed last week to Alberta Regulators states no construction activity has commenced as the application process is underway. It states an estimated in-service date of late next year.

That would be one year behind schedule according to the publicized requirements of the provincial energy auction program, though followup literature describes late 2019 as a “target” in-service date.

The contract, along with major contracts for Capital Power’s Whitla Wind Project and two smaller facilities near Pincher Creek, were awarded in late 2017 when the previous NDP government invited companies to bid low prices into an auction program.

The News reported last week that Capital Power’s Whitla Wind is on track to have its $325-million farm completed and producing power by the end of the year.

A plan by European green energy firm Enel to expand two existing facilities near Pincher Creek were approved this summer, and officials now say construction is underway toward completion by the end of the year, about 100 days away.

“We’ve mobilized very quickly and had a very good construction season,” said Shaun Andrews, director of business development in Canada for Enel Green Power North America.

Capital Power began some work on grading and service roads in late 2018 at a variety of sites south of Bow Island, east of the Forty Mile Reservoir.

A main shop was also constructed last winter, but the lion’s share of construction activity began this spring. That includes building huge foundations, laying an underground cable network, delivering and erecting huge towers, plus installing blades, turbines and commissioning the entire project could take a total of less than eight months.

More than 300 workers are engaged by two main contractors.

In the case of Enel and EDPR, both companies are updating the physical attributes of their respective plants and require new approvals from regulators for the amendments.

The initial application to construct the Sharp Hills wind farm was approved in Sept. 2018, but in March the company applied to use higher capacity turbines, thereby eliminating the need for 12 of planned 83 towers and slightly lowering the height of the remaining 71 structures.

A hearing on that application will take place Oct. 21 in Calgary, with written submissions from registered intervenors due Sept. 27.

Enel also plans to use new models of turbines that have a higher peak capacity in place of ones in original applications.

Enel also announced in early 2018 it had reached agreement to sell 49 per cent stake in the project to AIMCo. (the investment agency of the government of Alberta), for an undisclosed amount, but would remain the developer and operator.

That transaction will not close until the facilities go into operation.

The Alberta Electric System Operator also awarded contracts in two subsequent rounds. Successful bids announced in late 2018 involved six projects in southeast Alberta with in-service target dates of June 30, 2021.

The most notable to Hatters is the EDF Renewables “Cypress Wind Project” that is to be built south of Irvine between Dunmore and the Cypress Hills.

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NOTE: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the “Cypress Wind” renewable power facility  proposed by EDF Renewables had received approval by the Alberta Utility Commission.

In fact, the project application has been submitted by the company, and a feedback period is underway.

The project involves erecting 48 turbines and constructing a substation about 20 kilometres southeast of Medicine Hat. The AUC announced on Tuesday that it will accept feedback on the project and is now accept applications to parties seeking intervenor status. That deadline in Oct. 21.  Written submissions are due on Oct. 23.

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