Renewables support in jeopardy

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Major cuts are being made at Alberta's Department of Energy which jeopardise its further support of wind power. An "aggressive, businesslike approach to internal management and greater collaborative decision making within government and with industry" is part of a larger effort by the debt-conscious provincial government to radically cut costs and eliminate its deficit by 1997. Details were released in the February provincial budget, which calls for cuts of 23% in energy department funding and 281 full time energy staff.

In 1994-95, the ministry will allocate $175,000 for monitoring the Southwest Alberta Renewable Energy Initiative (SWAREI) and the Alberta Renewable Energy Test Site. However, no new SWAREI projects have been announced. SWAREI is the largest provincial government programme supporting renewable energy in Canada and has used $3 million since 1989 from the Alberta Heritage Savings Trust Fund (created from petroleum and gas royalties to diversify the Alberta economy) to support selected wind power and small hydro projects under the Small Power Research and Development Act. The act applies to some 125 MW of renewables. SWAREI has also supported a wind turbine test site, wind energy surveys and information distribution. Heritage Trust Fund backing for SWAREI expired in April.

SWAREI supported development of a 9 MW wind farm at Cowley Ridge using 25, 33M-VS variable speed turbines from Kenetech of California along with the 9.9 MW Pe-Kun-Nee wind power project at the same location. The Cowley Ridge project was completed in December and Pe-Kun-Nee wind farm should come on line soon. It, too, uses Kenetech turbines.

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