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Wind power vision grows

A Calgary wind power group has announced two more proposals to harness Central Alberta breezes.

Greengate Power Corp. is looking at two sites in Lacombe and Ponoka Counties as part of its aggressive campaign to develop 1,100 megawatts of electricity on seven Alberta wind farms over the next two to four years.

Another project in the Radar Hill area, about 16 km east of Red Deer Regional Airport, was announced in October.

A separate project, by Finavera Renewable, would erect about 45 windmills on 8,000 acres in the Trochu-Three Hills region. The $150-million Ghost Pine project, 3.5 km northwest of Trochu, would provide 75 megawatts of power – enough to power 26,000 homes.

Among the new projects is a 150-megawatt wind farm planned for 20,000 acres about five km east of Lacombe. Depending on the technology used, about 75 wind towers would be erected on high ground as part of the $300-million project.

A matching proposal is planned a few kilometres to the north in Ponoka County.

Greengate founder, president and chief executive Dan Balaban said the privately held company has already leased 12,000 of the estimated 40,000 acres needed to go ahead with full-scale projects; and enough land has been secured to go ahead with smaller wind farms.

“The amount of landowner support we have received has been phenomenal,” he said. A recent gathering at a community hall in Lacombe County drew at least 120 area landowners and other curious onlookers.

The latest proposals follow a previous announcement that the company was looking at posting 50 windmills on 30 quarter sections in the Radar Hill area, high ground between Pine Lake and Red Deer. That $200 million project would produce about 100 megawatts, enough to power a city the size of Red Deer.

Greengate also has projects in mind for Winter Hills, near Drumheller; Stirling, near Lethbridge; and Halkirk, east of Stettler. A seventh site is still under wraps. Four smaller, 10-megawatt projects are also planned in Ontario.

Balaban said the company is meeting with landowners and municipal councils and officials to keep them up to speed on the company’s plans. Balaban met with Lacombe County council Tuesday and will be making a presentation to Ponoka County councillors next week.

“It’s very important to us that we engage the community in our decisions,” he said.

Over the next 18 months, the company plans to conduct its wind study work and undertake the environmental assessments and reviews required by both provincial and federal governments. Construction could start in about two years.

The first preparatory steps are already underway in Central Alberta. A 60-metre wind measurement tower will go up in Ponoka County within the next week or so. Up to five could be in place over the next year.

Lacombe County commissioner Terry Hager said council just received Greengate’s report for information.

“They didn’t take a final position on it. They recognized there are certainly benefits.

“It appears they have the support of at least some of the community.”

The company’s sites have a couple of things in common, said Balaban. They are not necessarily the windiest spots in the province, but there’s plenty of breeze, and they are close to existing transmission lines. Being able to hook up to the system is important in getting the system up and running as soon as possible and eliminates risk and additional costs.

Balaban, a former technology management consultant and a software company founder, had his interest in renewable energy piqued by his work developing software that oil and gas companies used to measure their greenhouse gas emissions.

“I’ve wanted to do something with renewable energy for a long time.”

The company, which his brother and father are also involved in, is in the speculative phase right now, where investment is measured in the millions of dollars.

Once the projects get going and the risk is taken out, he believes the $2 billion to $2.5 billion in investment needed will not be that hard to find.

“I believe there is plenty of money out there looking for a safe place to go.

“Wind doesn’t run out. It’s not a finite resource. It’s an infinite.

“We definitely believe there’s a lot of potential.”

By Paul Cowley
Advocate Staff

Red Deer Advocate

6 December 2007