Alberta, the nations’ epicentre of oil and gas, has taken to the wind, leading Canada in new wind farm capacity last year and now in 2022 wind farm investments are reaching into the billions of dollars as the private sector embraces larger and more advanced turbines.
The Canadian Renewable Energy Association (CanREA) credits the province’s rapid growth in renewable energy (solar and wind) to the deregulated energy market that has made Alberta the home of Canada’s fastest growing wind and solar energy sectors. Between 2019 and 2021, the market-based approach to renewables led to over 1,600 MW of contracted capacity by companies and more than $3 billion in Alberta investments.
“2021 was a positive year for our industries, with 677 MW of new wind energy and 288 MW of new utility-scale solar energy commissioned,” said Robert Hornung, president and CEO of CanREA, speaking of nation-wide growth. But, it is Alberta that accounted for more than 60 per cent of new Canadian capacity installed in 2021, with Saskatchewan accounting for another 20 per cent. Alberta statistics show that in 2021, 250 MW of solar energy capacity and 358 MW of wind energy capacity were added to Alberta’s electricity grid.
Alberta’s private sector is now winding up with billions dollars of new capacity under construction and proposed. The $250 million Grizzly Bear Creek wind project, which recently received a nod from the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) to increase capacity, is looking to begin producing 152 MW by year-end. The project, located 160 kilometres north of Edmonton, is Enel Green Power’s fourth in Alberta, bringing its total installed capacity to over 360 MW.
The newly approved AUC plan reduces the number of turbines from 50 to 34 turbines by utilizing larger turbines and newer technology, which will also reduce the site footprint, the access roads needed and overall d electrical support systems required. (There will be three Vestas V136 turbines and 31 Vestas V150 turbines outputting 4.2-4.5 MW). Pennecon Heavy Civil is the balance-of-plant contractor, according to information provided by Matt Epting, Enel’s North America media and public relations manager.
In late June, Capstone Infrastructure Corporation’s subsidiary Wildrose 2 Wind Farm, another new investment, signed a 20-year power purchase agreement with Edmonton, the largest of its kind with a city for 78 MG of renewable energy. Wild Rose 2 is also party to a power purchase agreement with Pembina Pipeline Corporation for the off-take of 105 MW of renewable energy over 15 years.
The $260 million Wildrose 2 project will be located 35 km southeast of Medicine Hat. Megan Hunter, media relations for Capstone, said via email that an engineering, procurement, and construction contractor is being brought in, but no name will be publicized until the agreement is finalized but construction is expected to start later in 2022. “In terms of technology selection and manufacturing, we recently signed a turbine supply agreement with Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy Inc. to supply 38 SG 5.2-145 turbines for the project and provide long-term operations and maintenance services for the facility,” she said.
Hunter said that each turbine has a generation capacity of 5.2 MW, which is much higher than the turbines available on the market a decade ago. “This has allowed us to significantly reduce the overall footprint and potential impacts of the wind farm without compromising generation capacity,” she said. An earlier design proposed by the former project owner included 60 turbines to achieve 192 MW generation capacity.
A second Capstone project is Buffalo Atlee Wind Farm, Phases 1-4. Now under construction, the venture is expected to be operational by December 2022. Once operational, the Buffalo Atlee Wind Farm Phases 1-4 will have a combined capacity of 58.3 MW and will be comprised of 13 total turbines. The farm is located approximately five kilometres east of the hamlet of Jenner. Cost of the four-phase project is $85 million.
In late June, BluEarth Renewables celebrated ground-breaking at its 145 MW Hand Hills wind project, which will provide 175 jobs during peak construction and inject over $250 million into the Alberta economy. The project, located northeast of Drumheller, is estimated to start-up 2023.
“The main contractor is going to be Borea,” said Erin Roberts, communications lead for BluEarth Renewables. In total, she said, 29 turbines are planned for the site. Borea has constructed more than 6,500 MW of wind power across Canada, including three of the largest projects in the country.
Potentia Renewables Inc. has under construction the $400 million Jenner wind project, a three-phase development producing 303 MW with 22 turbines in Phase 1, 13 turbines in Phase 2, and 20 turbines in Phase 3 with a completion date of 2023. The same company also has under construction the $170 million Wheatland County wind farm which has 24 turbines with a capacity of 122.4 MW and is completing this year.
TransAlta Renewables has under construction its $195 million Garden Plain wind project with 26 turbines creating 130 MW of power with Pembina Pipeline having a purchasing agreement for 100 MW over 18 years. The project is scheduled to complete this year. The company has another project in the proposal stage, the $105 million, 70 MW Tempest Wind project.
Also under construction and scheduled to complete this year is Pattern Energy’s $200 Lanfine North wind power project adding 150 MW to the grid. Greengate Power Corporation’s $170 million, 113 MW Stirling Wind farm is also slated to complete in late 2022 or early 2023.
International company EDF Renewables has several projects in the Alberta market. EDF Renewables North America is looking to begin construction of its Bull Trail Wind Farm, south of Irvine later this year with an operational date of 2024. Bull Trail consists of 51 towers and turbines that could cumulatively produce 270 megawatts of power in peak conditions. An underground collector system would be installed, along with roads and a project specific substation and connection to nearby AltaLink transmission lines. The project is estimated to cost $500 million.