Vulcan busy with solar, wind power

Blackspring Ridge wind project in Vulcan County is just one renewable resource project.

Over time, Vulcan and area has been pop-culturally associated with a plethora of out of this world characters from other planetary origins in the “Star Trek” universe. Now, Vulcan County will be synonymous with the sun and its awesome raw power with a recently announced solar energy project.

Greengate Power and Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners announced an investment agreement for “Canada’s largest solar energy project – one of the largest in the world.” That's some pretty big news for a small southern Alberta municipality with a population of just under 4,000 county residents. According to a media release, Travers Solar is expected to attract approximately $500 million of foreign investment and bring more than 500 jobs to Alberta’s growing renewable energy sector.

With the announcement, the intention is to fund the further development and construction of the Travers Solar Project. The project is also subject to the achievement of certain remaining milestones. It is anticipated, the construction of the project will commence in mid-2020, with full commercial operations targeted for the end of 2021. With a total generating capacity of 400 MW, Travers Solar is expected to provide a renewable source of electricity for more than 100,000 Alberta homes during its 30 or more years of operation.

As part of the agreement, it was stated in a media relase, CIP is hoping to provide funding for the development, construction and operation of Travers Solar. Greengate will retain an ongoing economic interest and provide management services throughout the life of the project. The investment in Travers Solar is expected to provide substantial economic and environmental benefits to Alberta, while demonstrating investor confidence in the province’s deregulated power market and its Technology Innovation and Emissions Reduction (TIER) program.

Greengate’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Jordan Balaban said Greengate is very excited about the project and already has quite a bit of history with Vulcan County. “We were also the company that developed the Blackspring Ridge project, which was the largest wind project in Canada.”

“You combine that project with the Travers Solar Project – that's over $1 billion worth of investment coming to Vulcan County, which is great,” Balaban noted.

Alberta has very strong oil and gas resources, Balaban added, but it also has really strong wind and solar resources. “Vulcan County is the beneficiary of some of those more natural resources.”

Vulcan County is definitely a sunny place in Alberta and both Blackspring Ridge and the Travers Solar Project are located very close to a large transmission line, Balaban explained.

“Being close to existing infrastructure allows us to tie in the electricity into the grid. The other piece is Vulcan County has been very supportive with developments and the community, in general, has been very supportive of the developments. We've had a lot of public consultations on these projects and generally the community has been in support of this also, which is very important for these types of infrastructure projects,” said Balaban.

Balaban pointed out one of the next steps is finalizing some of the design aspects of the project. “And finalizing some of the other commercial arrangements. Hopefully by the summer we're under construction of this project with operations by the end of 2021.”

During construction, Balaban said, there's going to be 500 jobs. “It's quite a great impact on the community. Obviously, landowners participating in the project get the benefit of the revenues from the leases. Vulcan County gets the benefit of property taxes and then there's the benefits during construction, when it comes to direct jobs and all the other kind of economic benefits of the surrounding community having that many people in the area.”

From the moment the project was conceived, it's been about a three-year project, according to Balaban. “From idea to full operation is around five years.”

Alberta is going to be phasing out its coal-fired facilities over the next decade, Balaban said. “We have to replace some of those coal retirements with additional power generation. There's definitely going to be an opportunity over the next decade for additional renewables to come online and I think there's going to be quite a bit of gas-fired generation coming onto the grid.”

“It's a pretty great economic opportunity over the next decade in terms of replacing that power generation coming online,” Balaban added.

Travers Solar, Balaban concluded, is being built on a subsidy-free basis. “It's being driven based off market-based approaches and it's subsidy-free.”

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