A Calgary company is first in line for the next wave of new wind power projects in Alberta, after the province announced in September it was lifting a cap on the so-called green energy projects – a move expected to unleash billions of dollars in investment in alternative power.
Privately owned Greengate Power Corp. said Monday it has received an interconnection proposal for its proposed 300-megawatt Blackspring Ridge wind power facility near Lethbridge. Planned to be completed in 2010, if approved by regulators, the roughly $600-million facility would generate enough electricity to power more than 100,000 homes.
“From my perspective, I think it’s a positive development for the wind industry in general, because it shows that they are starting to work on wind projects again,” Greengate president and chief executive Dan Balaban told the Herald. “It validates our strategy of going after areas with existing transmission capacity.”
AESO officials said Monday as much as 9,000 megawatts of wind generation is waiting in the wings in Alberta. However, many of those plans – worth a potential $18 billion to $20 billion – are stymied by a lack of excess transmission capacity in many areas of the province. Currently, Alberta has 497 megawatts of installed wind capacity, but could add as much as 3,400 megawatts in the next 10 years – if it can ship the power from place to place.
“Transmission remains the hurdle that we all have to address,” said David Huggill, policy manager for Western Canada for the Canadian Wind Energy Association. CanWEA, he said, is pleased some Alberta interconnections are now going ahead.
“Any time our industry sees the process moving forward that’s certainly a good thing,” said Huggill. “We’re certainly encouraged and happy to see the AESO starting to look at the application process in terms of moving it forward.”
In a recent posting to wind generators, the AESO said it has developed a target schedule of interconnection proposals to help address the backlog of wind applications. “The schedule was created based on the identification of those projects that have capacity and could proceed without major system upgrades, those that require system upgrades, keeping in mind the overall queue and finite resources,” said the posting.
“There’s a lot of other generation, too,” noted AESO vice-president of transmission, Neil Millar, Monday. “The wind generation is by far the largest volume that’s there in front of us.”
The transmission constraint phenomenon is apparent at many levels in Alberta. For example, in the Lake Wabamun area near Edmonton – a substantial focus of Alberta generation due to nearby coal – a transmission bottleneck to high-demand-growth areas in southern Alberta means new projects are constrained in an area that is dotted with major existing plants. The situation was aggravated when plans around a $600-million, 500-kilovolt reinforcement were halted last year after a regulator was found to have spied on landowners opposed to the project.
In Greengate’s case, the company has identified seven projects it believes have available transmission capacity with a combined potential output of 1,000 megawatts.
“That’s how they prioritized which projects would get the applications first, even though we were farther down the queue.”
In the windy southwest region of Alberta, the demand for added transmission for wind generation projects has prompted a reinforcement project that will see the addition of a 240-kilovolt transmission line that should allow the addition of up to 1,200 megawatts of generation, almost all of it expected to be wind.
Millar said the AESO is already planning and talking to interested stakeholders about additional transmission capacity beyond the planned 240-kilovolt upgrade.
By Geoffrey Scotton
5 February 2008
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