CALGARY – A subsidiary of a Spanish renewable energy company has received the go-ahead from the Alberta Utilities Commission for its proposed 120 MW wind farm near Medicine Hat.
Pteragen Canada Inc. – a subsidiary of Spain’s Renovalia Energy – announced Tuesday it has received final regulatory approval for the $200 million project, which could become one of the largest wind farms in Alberta. (Right now, Capital Power’s newly operational 150 MW Halkirk project near Stettler is the largest in the province. There is a 300 MW project – owned by Enbridge Inc. and EDF EN Canada – in the works for the Vulcan area.)
In a telephone interview from Madrid, director of business development Fernando Schwartz said Renovalia owns and operates wind power projects in Spain, the U.S., Hungary, Romania, Italy, Mexico, Chile, and Peru. He said the Peace Butte project – to be located 22 km south of Medicine Hat near the village of Seven Persons – will be the company’s first entry into Canada. Pteragen acquired the early-stage project from original developers, Calgary-based Wind River Power Corporation, in 2010.
“We spent some time hunting around for projects in the Ontario region, but in the end we decided we liked the project in Alberta,” Schwartz said. “It has a very good wind resource, which obviously for us is one of the most important aspects. But the second aspect we like about Canada generally is that it gives us a lot of confidence, financially and legally … Canada is an investment-attractive country.”
The company still must finalize financing for the project, and obtain an agreement for the sale of the energy produced. Under Alberta’s deregulated system, wind producers sell their electricity into the grid for market price. Schwartz said the Peace Butte project should generate enough electricity to power 50,000 households annually.
Construction on the 60 wind turbines is expected to begin in early 2014 and should create significant employment in the Medicine Hat area, Schwartz said.
“Right now in Mexico, on our 137 MW project that is actually just starting, we have in the order of 270 people working on site. And that’s the initial phase – once we go to full construction, we’ll have around 600 people working on site for at least a year,” he said.
That’s great news, said Nichola Kondra, associate director with the Economic Development Alliance of Southeast Alberta. Right now, the Lethbridge-Pincher Creek region is home to the majority of southern Alberta’s wind power capacity, but Kondra said Medicine Hat is also well-positioned to be a centre for alternative energy.
“We have a real advantage with our consistent wind source and our expected sunshine hours,” she said. “We’re excited to have it in this part of the province and to get this kind of recognition for renewable energy.”
AltaLink has filed an application with the AUC to construct approximately 250 metres of transmission line to connect the Peace Butte wind project to an existing transmission line in the area.
Alberta currently ranks third in Canada for wind power production, after Ontario and Quebec. In 2012, the province’s wind power generation capacity hit 1,116 MW broke the 1,000 MW mark for the first time. According to the Canadian Wind Energy Association, there are 752 wind turbines in Alberta divided between 34 different projects.