Hundreds of megawatts of wind power in the east-central region of Alberta could be connected over the next decade after the province's system operator filed an application with its electricity regulator for over C$1billion worth of transmission equipment.
The Alberta Electric System Operator (Aeso) says that there is about 2300 MW of wind power projects under development in the area. Aeso anticipates that 700 MW of that will be built in the next decade.
In addition, electricity demand in the region is expected to more than double between now and 2017, driven largely by oil and gas pipelines that require a significant amount of power to operate pumping facilities, and by coal bed methane producers.
"The Aeso's system studies indicate that the Hanna region (east-central Alberta) transmission system is near its capacity and will not be able to supply additional loads in the region or interconnect any major wind project," the application says.
The Aeso recommends building a 240 kV AC looped system using double-circuit towers with one side strung. "Capacity can be added at a later date by stringing the second 240 kV circuit if and when required, without the need for new rights-of-way," according to the application.
The project will be developed in two stages, with the first stage carrying a price tag of approximately C$849 million and targeted to be in service by 2012. It will provide the carrying capacity for about 500 MW of wind power. Stage two, which has an estimated cost of around C$157 million, is planned to be in service by 2017.
Alberta's wind energy industry has traditionally focused on the southern part of the province, but has moved out from there in recent years as its prospecting activities have expanded and advances in turbine technology have allowed more effective exploitation of less robust wind regimes.
TransAlta Corporation, based in Calgary, has development prospects in the east-central region. Jason Edworthy, TransAlta's director of community relations, says the company is happy to see the application filed.
"It's a proactive step, but it's also responding to the interest and need, and it gives companies like ours the opportunity to actually get serious about areas like that," says Edworthy.
The east-central upgrade is not the only wind-related transmission build that is currently under way in Alberta. Altalink, which owns and operates the transmission system in the southern part of the province, has started construction on a C$133 million, double circuit 240 kV line, which will run from Pincher Creek to Lethbridge, and will have the capacity to transport the electricity from about 1000 MW of wind. Altalink's line is expected to be up and operating in the second quarter of 2010 (Windpower Monthly, April 2009).
In September, the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) approved the first step toward building a C$2.45 billion 240 kV loop that will gather output from a series of so-called wind interest zones right across the south. Its decision established the need for the new lines, and the next step will see Altalink put together a detailed siting plan and go back to the regulator to seek a permit-to-construct and license-to-operate.
The expansion will be built in three stages, with work on the first to begin as soon as all the regulatory approvals are in place. (Windpower Monthly, February 2009).