More details were released on a proposal for a wind farm in the RM of Rocanville last week.
NextEra Energy is in the very early stages of developing a proposal for a wind farm west of Rocanville, near a high voltage line that carries power to the Tantallon substation. NextEra is the world’s largest producer of power from solar and wind. It operates solar, wind and nuclear power plants across four Canadian provinces and 30 states.
David Lawlor of NextEra told the Rocanville meeting that SaskPower’s plan for 50 per cent renewable energy by 2030 includes plans to buy 1,600 megawatts of wind power.
SaskPower expects individual wind farms in the 100 mw to 200 mw range. A 100 mw wind farm would include 25-30 towers, a 200 mw farm would have 55-60 towers.
NextEra submitted a Request for Qualifications bid to determine that they are qualified to bid on supplying that power, and the company has qualified.
Lawlor said the Rocanville project isn’t advanced enough to bid into the first request for proposals.
“This project is not advanced enough to bid into this current SaskPower process,” he said. “You need one full year of meteorological data. We have our bases for our met towers being installed.
“We will be setting up two met towers. They will be erected at the end of this year or early next year.
“This is a very early stage project. We just started looking at leasing land in the summer and met with council in July.”
He said the location near major power transmission lines makes the area attractive for wind development.
He said the company has secured some land in the area, but not enough to create a project yet.
Successful bidders will sign a 25-year power purchase agreement to sell power to SaskPower.
Lawlor said the Rocanville project has the potential to bid into a SaskPower request for proposals in 2019 or 2020.
If the project wins, it would be in service in 2022-2023.
Lawlor said a bylaw passed in May by the RM council has a limitation on turbine height which could be problematic for the project.
“As technology has improved, turbines have become taller,” he said. “We want to get turbines up out of the way of obstacles that cause interference.
“We’re now looking at towers of 110 metre height and rotor diameter of 130 metres, or 65 metre blades.
“We want to use the most advanced technology, which is also the quietest.”
Lawlor said he is hopeful the project can go ahead.
“There is benefit to the overall community,” he said. “It provides very local jobs, provides millions in landowner lease payments, it allows land to remain in agricultural use.
“It allows the land use to remain the same. They’re on the landscape, but you can farm around them.”
In response to a question from the crowd, Lawlor said NextEra has other projects in development in Saskatchewan.
“We have other spots in Saskatchewan, some of which are more advanced than this one,” he said. “We will be submitting something to SaskPower in the first RFP.”
In response to another question, Lawlor said the focus on Saskatchewan would be on wind, not solar.
“Right now Saskatchewan has a 10 mw opening for solar, but wind is still more inexpensive,” he said.
One person at the meeting asked if the wind towers would be connected to the grid with overhead or underground wires.
“Our standard design is all underground collection,” said Lawlor. “There have been a few instances—the side of a mountain, a big rock—where you need to go above ground, but we try to stay underground. Our preference is underground.”
One landowner asked if oil drilling would be permitted on land with wind turbines.
“They can still drill, yes,” said Lawlor. “They can coexist on the landscape. We can’t reasonably deny oil development.”
One person asked about the separation of wind towers from homes.
“Our internal is 500 metres, but it’s not uncommon to be 700 or 800 metres from a residence,” he said.
“We do a lot of stuff before building to make sure there isn’t a noise issue.
“We model, we try to do a lot of work way up front. We can put a noise meter on the house and measure it.”
One person asked if there has ever been an issue where a wind tower will fall over in a tornado or plow wind.
“On very rare occasions, yes, towers have buckled,” said Lawlor, “but it’s extremely rare.”
One question was whether icefall from the blades is a problem.
“Alberta and Saskatchewan are less moist areas, but you can heat the trailing edges on a blade to avoid icefall,” said Lawlor.
One person asked about decommissioning windfarms 25 or 40 years down the road.
“There has been decommissioning done on wind farms across North America,” said Lawlor. “We decommission a metre below ground.”
One person asked about the advantages of NextEra over other companies developing wind farms.
“We procure more GE equipment than any other entity in the world,” he said. “That gives us some leverage there. We develop, we construct, and we operate, so we’re in it for the long term.”
One person questioned why the company sent land agents to sign up land owners before approaching the RM.
“If you look at the way the RFP is set up with SaskPower, you have to demonstrate land control,” said Lawlor.
“You have to have the agreements in place.
“We don’t usually at this early stage have a full public meeting.
“There’s a land rush right now. There are a lot of companies out there—we need to get the land now or we’re not getting it.
“If we can’t get enough people on board, we need to go to a different area. If we’re not here, it might be Algonquin or someone else knocking on your door.
“A lot of companies acquire the land just to turn it over to a bigger company like us.”
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