Oil company turns wind generator -- Alberta project online

Another Canadian oil and gas company is following in Suncor's footsteps and entered the wind power generation business with October's official opening of the 70.5 MW Soderglen wind farm in southern Alberta. Calgary's Nexen Inc is an equal partner in the C$113 million project, along with GW Power Corporation, a private project developer also based in Calgary. Nexen, which is listed on the Toronto and New York stock exchanges, operates in the North Sea, Gulf of Mexico, Alberta oil sands, the Middle East and offshore West Africa.

GW Power will operate Soderglen, which consists of 47 GE Energy 1.5 MW turbines built on about 1580 hectares of prairie grasslands and cultivated fields near the community of Fort Macleod. Nexen's power marketing division, one of the largest retail providers of electricity to the commercial and industrial sector in Alberta province, will sell the project's output.

David Axford, the company's vice president of power marketing, says Nexen plans to not only market green power and renewable energy credits from Soderglen to its customers, but also use reductions generated by the project to help manage its own overall corporate CO2 emissions. "It is really dependent upon our own needs, what the market looks like at the time and what the opportunities are. It could be quite flexible. I know that in the early years we would probably have more to market than in latter years. And a lot of it is dependent upon which way the federal government goes with regards to many of their initiatives," says Axford.

Canada's new Conservative government, elected earlier this year, is in the process of developing its own plan for the reduction of pollution and greenhouse gases. Nexen has some major oil and gas projects set to come online in the near future, including a 43.2% stake in the Buzzard offshore oil and gas project in the North Sea and a 50% share of the Long Lake oils sands project in Alberta, the first phase of which is to be complete in 2007.

New wind power projects may also be in its future, says Axford. "Nexen is the type of company that likes to try out different things. We like to try it and then assess it and then determine what our next steps are," he explains. With Soderglen, the company likes what it has seen so far. "We believe there is definitely the ability for us to continue to grow in that particular sector," says Axford.

The completion of Soderglen brings Canada's installed wind power capacity to 1119 MW. Alberta leads the country with 385 MW. Suncor has stakes in just over 70 MW of the province's operating wind power plant.