A planned wind farm near Oyen that faced staunch opposition by some nearby landowners has earned new approval to be built just as a contract to sell power to the Alberta grid begins.
The Sharp Hills wind farm was one of three projects to win a provincial government green energy supply auction in 2017.
That 20-year supply contract began on Jan. 1, but regulatory hurdles and opposition twice delayed construction from moving ahead.
After new hearings this fall, the Alberta Utility Regulator approved on Dec. 20 changes that would see the company, EDPR Renewables, use higher-capacity turbines and reduce the number of towers from 83 to 71 in an area around Sedalia, west of Oyen.
The $500-million project earned original approval in late 2018, but officials later applied to change the turbine models and array layout.
Land owners near Sedalia renewed their objections that the facility would harm land values and affect their quality of life, leading to another hearing.
Last month the the AUC ruled the project was in the public interest and the changes were minor in nature.
Under the terms of the contract with the Alberta Electrical System Operator, the company is not penalized for not meeting the stated in-service date. However, the contract period remains in place, effectively meaning a shorter term.
The agreement sees prices stabilized with the use of a balancing pool – generators are topped up when the market price is below the contract price, and pay into the fund when the price is above.
At the time the contracts were announced, prices were described as record lows for green energy in Canada. The three winning bids in the 2017 auction stated prices that averaged slightly less than 4 cents per kilowatt hour. The average 2019 year-to-date power price in Alberta was 5.5-cents per kilowatt hour as of Dec. 18.
Sharp Hills was one of three that won supply contracts under an Alberta government initiative to have green power account for 30 per cent of Alberta’s electricity supply by 2030.
The Capital Power Whitla Wind facility went online in early December. Days later, the Edmonton-based company announced it would proceed with an expansion over the next two years.
In southwest Alberta, Italian green power provider Enel won contracts to expand facilities it owns near Pincher Creek.
It also amended its facility plans to use higher capacity turbines in early 2018 and began construction last fall.
Two subsequent supply auction rounds were held concurrently in 2018, and resulted in contracts for eight other facilities that are now scheduled to be built in southern Alberta.
Following the spring 2019 provincial election the winning United Conservative Party announced it would honour the contracts but would cancel planned auctions in the future.