February 22nd, 2019

Wind turbine on auction block


By Kalinowski, Tim on February 12, 2019.

The Bonus 150 wind turbine was the first privately owned power-generating wind turbine erected in southern Alberta. Photo submitted

-Tim Kalinowski

Lethbridge Herald

tkalinowski@lethbridgeherald.com

Alberta’s ongoing wind power and renewable energy renaissance may be in full bloom under the NDP government, but it is not the first time Alberta has flirted with government-sponsored wind power generation. On March 20 at Ritchie Bros. in Lethbridge a remnant of that legacy will be coming up for auction.

Built in the 1990s under the government of the day’s Small Power Producers Program, the Bonus 150 has a height of 23 metres with a generating capacity of 150 kW/hr.

Jeff Wearmouth, owner of Optimist Wind Energy, which is selling the turbine, says the Bonus 150 was the first privately owned power-generating wind turbine erected in southern Alberta.

“It was originally erected in Pincher Creek in 1997,” explains Wearmouth, “and it is very close to Cowley ridge.

At the time, it was the largest wind turbine in Canada, but I don’t think it held that title for very long. There are turbines 30 times the size of it now.”

Wearmouth says while the NDP’s current programs to foster greater renewable energy generation in the province are a huge step forward, it is still tough to be a small-sized windpower generator in today’s investment climate.

“It has been a tough go” admits Wearmouth. “Alberta power prices have been really low the past few decades. In Alberta, we have a great wind resource, and we should be developing wind power. The way the new renewable energy programs are rolling out in the province is pretty good, and I believe as Albertans we are now getting good prices on wind power. It’s a great program, but it is really competitive. It’s go big or go home now in the wind business.”

Wearmouth sold his other turbine earlier this year, and with only one relatively small-scale generating asset left in the Bonus 150, he figures it’s his time to “go home.”

“It’s a fairly unique item (to bring to auction), and we figure this is one way to generate a bit of interest,” he says. “It would be good for an industrial user, maybe for a farm the size of a Hutterite colony or for a big irrigation operation. If this goes to a power user, it will offset power which is more expensive. Or if you are like us and are an independent power generator, you simply get the price that’s within the Alberta (power) pool.”

Wearmouth hopes no matter who wins the next provincial election the NDP’s proposal to create a new community generation program for smaller-scale generators gets carried forward.

“I think there is some promise there,” he confirms. “But it will be really interesting what happens with the election coming up, and whether the new government or existing government will continue to support it.”

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