October 1st, 2020

‘Oilsands of sun and wind’

By Mabell, Dave on December 14, 2019.

Dave Mabell

Lethbridge Herald


Now being described as “the oilsands of sun and wind,” southern Alberta is receiving a $1.5-billion boost from its fast-growing alternative energy industry.

Overseas investors continue to underwrite new Alberta projects, a just-released report confirms, due to strong demand around the world for energy from renewable resources.

“International investment is moving into this industry right now,” says Trevor Lewington, chief executive officer at Economic Development Lethbridge.

“When Albertans are looking for good-news stories and economic wins, they can look right here,” he says.

“These projects also inject money into the economy, creating more wealth and opportunities for everyone in our region.”

Commissioned by the Southern Alberta Alternative Energy Partnership, the new report reveals just how significant alternative energy investments have become for Alberta’s economy.

Renewable Randolph Consulting examined the economic impact of nine utility-scale projects that are either being built or have been approved for construction from 2019 to 2022.

“There’s been a lot of discussion lately about the role of alternative energy in the economy,” explains Peter Casurella, executive director of SouthGrow Regional Economic Development.

“Our partnership wanted to quantify the economic impacts of these projects to show how important this sector is for southern Alberta,”

The total capital expenditure of the nine projects – six solar, three wind – is reported at $1.56 billion. And that includes hundreds of millions in local spending on things like construction, annual land lease revenues, tax assessment for municipalities and ongoing operations jobs.

“It’s important to note that we only looked at nine projects out of dozens that have already been built, or are being applied for now,” says Bev Thornton, executive director of Alberta SouthWest Regional Alliance.

“It has been said that southern Alberta is ‘the oilsands of sun and wind’ and the pace of investment is growing,” she says.

“Alberta has a richness of both resource-based and renewable assets which, taken together, can tell a strong and balanced energy story.”

With the global demand for energy continually growing, the report says Alberta’s wind and solar resource potential offers plenty of opportunity, particularly as utility-scale battery storage projects come online.

“Southern Alberta is well-served by high solar potential and some of the best conditions for wind generation in North America,” the report points out.

“Today, southern Alberta is recognized globally as a top destination for new alternative energy projects, and investment is pouring into the region.”

While focusing on the impact of nine current projects, the report notes “there are many more projects that have both preceded this window, or which are currently waiting for approval.”

Many industry experts regard 2017 as the “break-even” year for alternative energy technology, it says – the year when the input costs fell low enough for large-scale projects in Canada to become profitable without subsidies.

“Input costs continue to fall, and we anticipate that the rate of growth should accelerate.”

One of the issues holding back growth of the industry is transmission capacity, it observes.

“This problem can be largely mitigated by the incorporation of emerging battery technology into generation projects in the coming years, and a sustained effort in this direction should yield more integration capacity.”

The report was based on the researchers’ assessment of five southern Alberta projects already underway or about to begin, including the Enel North America CRR2/Riverview Wind Projects totalling 146 megawatts, the Greengate/Potentia Renewables Stirling Wind Project with 113 MW, the Innogy/Belectric Solar Canada Vauxhall and Hull Solar Projects with 57 MW of alternating current, the EDF Vulcan Municipal Solar Project with10 MW of AC current and the Canadian Solar Hays Solar Project with 23 MW of AC.

It also included four “construction ready” projects which have received regulatory approval.

They are the Greengate/Potentia Renewables Travers Solar Project to produce 400 MW of AC power, the EDF Vulcan Solar Energy Centre Project with 78 MW of AC, the TransAlta Windrise Wind Project generating 207 MW of direct current, and the Perimeter Claresholm Solar Project for 130 MW of AC.

The Southern Alberta Alternative Energy Partnership is a collaboration between Alberta SouthWest Regional Alliance, Economic Development Lethbridge and SouthGrow Regional Economic Development which has been supporting the development of alternative energy since 2007.

Over recent years, the report says, “The results of this effort have been one of the largest economic development successes that southern Alberta has seen.”

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No subsidies? There is a lot of hidden and wrong numbers when it comes to renewables.