Alberta’s largest wind project ready before winter

By Dave Cooper, Edmonton Journal September 18, 2012

EDMONTON – As Alberta’s largest wind farm nears completion, Edmonton-based Capital Power Corp. is opening the site of the $357-million project to the public.“On Wednesday we’ll have a blade signing in the village of Halkirk, where the public can sign a 44-metre blade that will be used on one of the 83 turbines, as well as tours of the site,” said spokesman Michael Sheehan. Halkirk is about 120 kilometres east of Red Deer.

Rising 124 metres from ground to blade tip — taller than the Epcor Tower in Edmonton — the turbines look a bit out of place on the gently rolling prairie of Paintearth County.

Capital Power says all the foundations for the turbine towers have been completed. As well, reclamation of the wide access roads has begun. Currently needed to bring in heavy equipment, the roads will eventually be less than five-metres wide, winding through the 10,000 hectares of private land within a 60 square kilometre area straddling Highway 12 between Halkirk and Castor.

So far, 34 turbines have been assembled completely and it is expected that all 83 will be up by the end of October as the 250 workers aim to have most work complete before winter arrives.

Work on the project’s power substation is also on target and is expected to be energized by Oct. 5 when power will be supplied to the site. After that, groups of turbines will be able to come online and feed power into the provincial grid.

The arrival of Capital Power offers an economic boost in the form of new tax revenue for the county and the village of Halkirk, as well as compensation and annual lease revenue to the 49 landowners. The company’s 14 permanent staff will also invigorate a village that claims a population of 121.

“There has been a lot of hustle and bustle throughout the area because of this project, and it means a lot to the local economy,” Tarolyn Peach, chief administration officer for Paintearth, said in a recent interview.

Capital Power purchased the project design and all approvals from Greengate Power Corp. in 2011. Alberta’s energy market does not pay extra for wind or solar power, so for Capital the deal-maker was a contract with a major California utility for the purchase of green-energy credits.

While power from the Halkirk project will go directly into the Alberta grid, Capital expects that half of the project’s revenue will come from these green credits, paid for by California consumers.

With 150 MW (megawatts) of capacity, Halkirk will provide enough power to supply 50,000 homes while the wind blows — which should be at least 30 per cent of the time.

While Alberta is the only province with a fully deregulated electricity market — which means wind power does not earn a higher price than less expensive coal-fired generation — it has Canada’s third largest system, with 891 MW currently in place, all in windy regions south of Calgary.

Ontario, by comparison, has 2,000 MW in operation with another 3,600 MW being built under its feed-in-tariff program, including projects by Capital Power.

The Edmonton firm is also building a wind power project in B.C., where BC Hydro pays a premium for renewable energy.

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