New capacity for prairie province

It is hoped that Saskatchewan will more than double its installed wind energy capacity with a new plan to add 200 MW to the prairie province's electricity supply mix.

Government-owned utility SaskPower will issue a request for proposals (RFP) for 175 MW of wind from independent power producers and will introduce a standing offer programme that will net a further 25 MW from smaller-scale projects. A standing offer programme provides fixed-priced contracts to projects that qualify, eliminating the competitive bidding process.

The utility hopes to have the new capacity online by 2013.

"We are expecting a very good response from private sector developers because there have been many of them prospecting across Saskatchewan and preparing for the request for proposals to be issued," says Brian Mohr, manager of the utility's sustainable supply development group. "So I'm looking forward to a strong and healthy competition."

The utility launched a qualifying process for potential bidders in December and will issue the final RFP after that is complete, says Mohr. Details of the standing offer programme will be released in the early part of 2010.

Saskatchewan currently has 172 MW of installed wind capacity, with another 25 MW under contract and expected to start delivering power in 2011. With the new purchases, wind will make up about 8.5% of the province's total generating capacity.

Manageable increase

The last new wind to be installed in the province was in 2006, when SaskPower's 150 MW Centennial project was commissioned. The utility established an internal technical team in 2007 to examine potential problems that would arise should another large block of wind come on stream, says Mohr. "The conclusion of that group was that we could add up to about 200 MW with manageable operational impacts and manageable costs, providing that the wind power can be curtailed when necessary," he says.

More wind could be added down the road as the system grows, technology advances and the utility gains additional operational experience, says Mohr. "How much and when really remains to be seen," he adds.

SaskPower, Saskatchewan's main electricity supplier, produces half of its electricity with coal and 28% with gas.

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