Largest wind power station comes on line

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Electricity production has begun at Canada's 9 MW Cowley Ridge wind farm in southwestern Alberta -- the largest in North America. Twenty-five of Kenetech Corporation's 33M-VS variable speed turbines were connected to the grid of TransAlta Utilities Corporation (TAU) during December. Under a 20 year contract, TAU is paying the Cowley Ridge Joint Venture Cdn$0.0527/ kWh, which will increase with inflation. The rate is set by the Alberta Small Power Research and Development Act (SPRDA) of 1988.

Kenetech's manager of project development, Dave Ward, says the power production agreement has been assigned to a joint venture comprising the Cowley Ridge Windpower Company Inc and the Cowley Ridge Partnership, both of Alberta. The composition of the corporation and the partnership will be divulged after project financing is completed. The joint venture owns the plant assets and is "the entity through which we expect the plant to be financed," says Ward. The plant is operated by Kenetech.

Also in December, TAU signed a 20 year power purchase contract under the SPRDA with The Chinook Project Inc for power from the 9.9 MW Pe-Kun-Nee development. This is expected to start operating adjacent to the Kenetech joint venture site in the spring. The Pe-Kun-Nee project is to be made up of 27, 33M-VS turbines, aligned in a row with those of the joint venture. However, the two neighbouring projects each have a substation for the TAU grid for independent operation.

TAU, Canada's largest investor owned electric utility providing 67% of the Alberta' electricity, regards the two projects as an excellent opportunity to learn more about wind generation. TAU connected the first wind turbine to its grid in 1980 and now buys electricity under the SPRDA from nine wind installations in southwestern Alberta totalling 11.2 MW, as well as power from other small wind projects. However, TAU transmission and power procurement engineer Peter Staszelis says "the obligation to purchase all of the capacity under the SPRDA before the year of need for new generation, and at a price much higher than the current costs of generation, will cause some rate increases to TAU's customers. TAU is committed to a competitive mechanism for procurement of new generation." The total capacity which can be developed under SPRDA in Alberta is limited to 125 MW, all but 2.4 MW of which has been allocated to wind and other projects in the TAU service area. Coal provides 95% of TAU's energy, and hydro plants provide 5%. TAU's current generation capacity is 4,476 MW.

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