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Utility embraces green energy -- Wind projects add 155 MW

A government-owned monopoly in Canada has attracted a gas and coal generator -- active in Britain, Australia and Canada -- as a joint venture partner for significant wind power development. Together they will add 150 MW of wind power to Saskatchewan's generation portfolio by early 2007.

A government-owned monopoly utility in Canada has attracted a gas and coal generator -- active in Britain, Australia and Canada -- as a joint venture partner for significant wind power development. SaskPower will work together with ATCO Power of Alberta to add 150 MW of wind power to Saskatchewan's generation portfolio by early 2007. The venture will be ATCO's first foray into wind.

ATCO Power's manager of corporate services, John Jenkins, says the company has been interested in wind technology for some time. Wind is becoming increasingly attractive as its capital costs drop and natural gas prices rise. "Wind is not something that we dreamt up three weeks ago, because for quite a number of years we've looked carefully at wind and wind projects and this is the one where we finally had a fit," he says. "It looks, overall, like a good start for us in the wind business."

ATCO and SaskPower International, the utility's development subsidiary, have worked together in the past, partnering on a 260 MW gas-fired cogeneration plant in Saskatchewan and 170 MW natural cogeneration project in the Alberta oil sands.

SaskPower chose ATCO, which owns or operates 5000 MW of electrical generation, as its 50-50 joint venture partner after asking about ten companies to submit expressions of interest earlier this year (Windpower Monthly, June 2003). ATCO's generating portfolio is dominated by gas-fired facilities, with about 1500 MW of coal and 32 MW of small hydro.

Online next year

Wind monitoring equipment has already been installed at several locations across Saskatchewan and Jenkins expects construction of the C$250 million project to begin after the results are in next spring. Construction will proceed in stages at one or more sites, with at least some of the power online by 2004-2005 and all 150 MW operating by March 2007, the deadline for receiving payments under the federal government's wind power production incentive program. The utility will incorporate power from all 150 MW into Saskatchewan's system mix rather than selling it as premium-priced green power.

Growing customer demand for green power, however, has prompted SaskPower to begin a C$10.2 million expansion to its Cypress wind farm in the southwest corner of the prairie province, increasing its size by 5 MW to 10.5 MW. It will add seven more Vestas turbines before the end of the year. SaskPower's all-wind green power program is 99% subscribed and the utility has industrial and commercial customers that are "waiting to get on," says the utility's Larry Christie.

Low impact aims

SaskPower's wind projects are part of a broader strategy to meet all new load growth over the next few years with low impact generation and to vary what is currently a fossil fuel-heavy supply mix. The utility currently produces half its electricity with coal and another 28% with gas, sources that account for one quarter of all CO2 emitted in the province.

With Canada's Kyoto strategy still under development, says Christie, the strategy allows the utility to move forward in small steps. "Not knowing where Kyoto is going, these small increments position us well in terms of getting experience with these technologies."

The utility will also buy up to 45 MW of "environmentally preferred" power from small projects over the next three years (Windpower Monthly, September 2003) and plans to launch pilot projects in methane gas and biomass generation, says Christie.

SaskPower's GreenPower program has about 1000 customers, including the federal and provincial governments. In addition to the Cypress power, the utility buys the output of the 11.2 MW Sunbridge project to supply the program's customers.

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