A major wind farm under construction near Bow Island, and a related plan for a huge solar array on site, is up for sale as energy giant Suncor plans to exit the wind and solar utility sectors.
Suncor confirmed to the News on Tuesday that construction on the Forty Mile Wind field will continue toward a commissioning date late this year while a buyer is sought.
That comes the day after the company announced it would focus its carbon reduction efforts in the emerging hydrogen fuel sector and upgrading efforts at its oil production facilities.
In the end is relief for officials with the County of Forty Mile, where the two projects represent up to $600 million in construction for the county of 3,800 residents.
“These are significant for the county,” said Reeve Craig Widmer. “We hate to see companies leave, but it doesn’t sound like that’s what’s happening here.”
Suncor told the News in a statement it plans to divest all wind and solar assets, leases and meteorological towers with an immediate marketing process followed by a formal sales process.
Also included in the offering is all data and studies, which could mean the plan for a 220-megawatt solar field to supplement green power production from the 200-megawatt wind farm could be sold as a package, or to another developer.
Suncor also operates smaller-scale wind facilities in southern Alberta – at Chin Chute and Magrath – as well as one in Ontario.
The wind farm was temporarily paused in 2020 as the company conserved capital in the midst of the pandemic oil-price crash, but was restarted last year as a key way to earn carbon offset credits to apply to petroleum operations.
A release states Suncor will now consider green power purchase agreements, and will focus on a joint venture with Atco to produce zero-emission hydrogen.
“Our plan is to continue to work with our contractors and suppliers to complete the Forty Mile Wind Power Project through to construction completion this year,” reads a statement from Suncor.
The company began building access roads in 2021 for the first phase of what is planned to be a 400-megawatt capacity wind farm. It also began stripping routes for underground cable at the site north of the Forty Mile Coulee, about 12 kilometres south of Bow Island.
Acting county administrator Nathan Ogden said Tuesday officials had little doubt the project would continue considering equipment, such as turbines, blades and tower components, for it is stockpiled at a laydown yard in Foremost.
He said the county will work with whomever takes over the project, and is “open for business.”
This year the county has already seen the completion of the Capital Power Whitla Wind expansion (adjacent to Suncor’s project), and the Rattlesnake Ridge wind farm. Work is also progressing on the Winnifred Wind project in the north east of the county.
The Forty Mile Solar project was first made public last year. The company said in a mailout to stakeholders and landowners last month it would apply in early 2022 to the Alberta Utilities Commission to build the facility toward a late-2024 completion date. It would cover portions of 18 quarter-sections near Highway 885 and Township Road 90.
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