Peigans install first turbine with utility -- Weather Dancer One

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Alberta's Peigan Indian Utility Corp (PIUC) and Edmonton utility Epcor have teamed up to install a NEG Micon 900 kW wind turbine on the Peigan Nation's traditional lands in the windy south of the province. The turbine is expected on-line this month and to generate 2960 MWh a year. For the first ten years, 80% of its output will be offered to customers through Epcor's green power program. The remainder will be sold into Alberta's spot electricity market. "We see a tremendous future in wind power," says Chris Heffring of Epcor. "The growing demand for power is bringing new opportunities for sustainable energy options like Weather Dancer 1. Our joint venture with the Peigan Indian Utility Corporation is a strong step toward building a large wind generating farm."

Epcor had not planned to be involved in the project development, but just buy the output of a planned 750 kW installation. The retailer wanted to begin offering wind power to customers back in January, but when it became clear the deadline would not be met, Epcor formed a 50-50 joint venture with PIUC. To help speed the process, Epcor will pay the C$1.8 million capital cost of the project and PIUC will buy back its interest. Epcor will operate the turbine and provide training and construction jobs to Peigan Nation members.

PIUC has been working since 1998 to build wind generation on its reserve lands. William Big Bull says Weather Dancer 1 is just the beginning. The company is preparing a business case for expansion of the wind farm, which Big Bull expects to eventually reach 100 MW. "We'd like to get the project up and standing within the next two years."

Epcor's David Morrow says his company is also interested in large scale wind development, either in partnership with the PIUC or on its own. But he does not believe Alberta's green power market, or its power prices, which have dropped from a high of C$253.28/MWh in October to an average of C$53.47/MWh in July, make a big wind farm viable right now.

"Maybe it's three years in the making, or five, or I don't know. But it's certainly coming," says Morrow. "I just want to make sure my team is knowledgeable and ready if the market starts to do a consistent upturn," he adds. If it would stay up consistently to the point where the forward market supported a wind farm, then we'd be in a position to go ahead."

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