Still being studied and discussed

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Plans for a giant wind farm of several hundred megawatt in south west Alberta -- proposed by York WindPower of Montreal, Wind Power Inc of Pincher Creek and German turbine maker Enercon -- are still awaiting active government support. The developers submitted their bid last July, proposing a local turbine manufacturing facility and a wind plant built in stages of 25 average MW each year over a ten year period. The first power would be generated around 1998 or 1999.

"Seven hundred nameplate megawatts of wind capacity, or 250 average MW, gets Pincher Creek a turbine factory to manufacture the turbines," says David Ward of York Windpower. "This is 1400 turbines. Come through with contracts for that and Pincher Creek gets a factory, with ancillary facilities in Edmonton and Calgary and spread around the province. This would put Pincher Creek on the map." Total investment could reach $5.5 billion over a planned 30 years.

Ward is looking at an energy payment rate of only "a nickle" (five cents) a kWh, just under that made to existing Alberta wind projects under the provincial Small Power Research and Development Act. "We don't need as much as the SPRDA rate," he says. "If they want to legislate it as a green rate, I don't care, just pass [the legislation] so we can get on."

Ward points out that with the Shell plant in Pincher Creek closing down as natural gas reserves are exhausted, jobs will be needed. "We're going to stay in the game in Alberta and see what happens, taking it a month at a time," he adds.

unsympathetic minister

Alberta premier Ralph Klein established an electricity restructuring committee in response to Ward's pitch. The group is studying electric industry issues including the role wind energy might take, as well as green power pricing and greenhouse gas reduction credits from wind projects. The task force is chaired by Dave Coutts, the member of the provincial legislative assembly for Pincher Creek, and Jack Ady, the member for nearby Macleod.

"Fact finding has been a much bigger task than initially expected," according to a source quoted by Energy Analects, an Alberta trade weekly. Moreover, Alberta energy minister Pat Black, who is close to the fossil fuel industry, is not considered sympathetic to renewables.

The developer group was expected to canvas support from power producers, distributors and wind energy proponents in early December. Ward has already met with David Manning, president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, who indicated that he would "round up two or three big energy users who might be interested in wind energy for the carbon dioxide offsets that would be available."

Ward claims that Pincher Creek is the ideal place to locate a multi billion dollar wind industry. "If you don't have a factory, you can't do projects in North America, plain and simple," he told WindSight, the quarterly of the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA). Ward believes that turbines shipped to North America from Europe have too high a price tag. "We like Alberta because we'll have foreign exchange going in our favour for exporting power to the United States."

The proponents hope to make the Pincher Creek area a "green power zone," with local production and consumption of wind energy and hope for "green power pricing" in the Alberta Power Pool to make the project viable. "We're doing everything we can to facilitate a project of this size," says Coutts.

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