Grasslands School Board has indicated they would be willing to participate in a Wind Power Project that would supply their electricity needs for the next 25 years at a fixed price.
Grasslands joined more than 40 school boards across the province to support the project created by Alberta Schools Commodity Purchasing Consortium.
Grasslands does not currently belong to the CPC but has signed an intent-to-participate letter to support the advancement of the project.
The wind farm will be built in east-central Alberta close to the Saskatchewan border.
With a capital cost of $160 million it will have the capacity of approximately 70 megawatts.
BluEarth Renewables Inc., a Calgary based company, will be the developer and operator for the venture.
Grasslands and other school boards were asked to sign a letter of intent to indicate whether they would participate in the project. The signatures were to give CPC an idea of the size of the undertaking – to determine how much electricity the wind farm would have to generate.
BluEarth will use this information to approach the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board for the necessary regulatory approval.
It is hoped that construction will begin in the fourth quarter of 2012. The wind farm should be up and running by January 2014.
“It’s a very interesting project,” secretary treasurer Rhian Schroeder told the Grasslands Board at a meeting in December.
Schroeder explained that the CPC had been looking at options for a long-term electricity agreement as their current agreement comes up for renewal at the end of 2013.
“The wind project they found to be the most advantageous because most of the costs are up front and there is very little operating or maintenance cost after the initial cost to build the wind turbines. And – wind is free.”
There is also a possibility of school boards having an opportunity to purchase equity in the project but specific details are not available on that front at this point.
The Grasslands five-year electricity contract expired in December.
“We’ve come upon the unfortunate situation where our contract has expired right when there’s been a peak in electricity so our costs are going to go up substantially and we did try to budget for that.”
Grasslands staff planned to negotiate a two-year contract with Enmax so that its end will coincide with the wind project start-up date.
“CPC has said they won’t ask us to enter into an agreement if they don’t think – once they get all the details in place – that what they can offer is competitive and reasonable in nature.
“The only thing they are asking us for right now is that we would sign saying that we intend to join this project – but again, only if the rates we receive are reasonable.”
There are binding provisions in the agreement that once a rate has been offered the board can’t use the rate to shop around.
“I think that it fits well with our green initiative,” said Schroeder. “It would be really nice to be able to say that all of our schools are powered by wind energy – a renewable resource.”
Board trustee John Petrie wondered how the boards’ participation in the project would be accepted in our local oil and gas based economy.
However Petrie also pointed out that a 25-year energy contract was an attractive option regardless of where the energy came from.
“The positive thing – if you’ve got a 25-year contract – we’re not at the whim of the oil and gas sector. To know what your power bill will be in ten years is a nice advantage. We don’t even have that at home.”
The CPC was formed in 2005. It constitutes a pooling of resources by a large number of Alberta school boards. The purchasing power created is used to buy energy at wholesale rates. Their current long-term electricity contract, which expires in December 2013, has so far resulted in $20 to $25 million in cost savings.
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