By Tim Kalinowski
Greg Copeland, vice president of development for NaturEner, presented a status report update on the company’s Wild Rose 1 and Wild Rose 2 wind farm projects before the Cypress County council last Tuesday.
Construction on the projects have been delayed several times over the year due to poor market conditions in the wind power generation industry. Copeland sought to reassure council his company would be following through on the projects, likely beginning in May of 2016 with the delivery of its first wind turbine towers to Wild Rose 1. Wild Rose 1 should then be completed in 2017 and Wild Rose 2 the following year in 2018, said Copeland.
However, he also said much depended on what signals the new Alberta NDP sends when it replaces the current Specified Gas Emitters Regulation before it expires in June.
“Our expectation right now is that if we can actually see something out of the government by June which is positive and favourable (to renewable energy) then the markets will respond,” said Copeland.
To some councillors present this sounded like a further dodge on the oft delayed project’s completion deadline. Coun. LeRay Pahl pressed Copeland for firmer assurances on that 2018 deadline.
“That’s a pretty good estimate unless something changes dramatically like in 2008. Right now everything we have on plans is for exactly what you just said,” confirmed Copeland.
Still unsatisfied, and stressing the continuing downturn in the wind power industry reported in other jurisdictions, Pahl pressed Copeland again for a firm deadline commitment to begin construction.
“We’ve lost two potential wind farms in this area already,” Pahl reminded his fellow councillors and Copeland. “You are absolutely sure and committed to make this thing go?”
Copeland, while acknowledging the price curve for power rates in the province was not great, said his company’s commitment to the Wild Rose projects was extensive and firm.
“I can tell you right now we have $25 million already invested and the time by our staff and company employees,” said Copeland in response to Pahl’s questions. “There would have to be a tremendous change in the economy and circumstances to have the company decide to turn around and walk away from that kind of investment.”
Copeland went on to explain the approvals process for Wild Rose 1 and Wild Rose 2 had been completed with the Alberta Utilities Commission. His company had invested in more powerful and efficient turbine technology to make the Wild Rose projects more cost effective to construct and operate. NaturEner has also procured a contractor to begin construction on the projects when ready. And they have been doing further environmental assessments throughout the spring to limit the effect of the wind farms on migrating birds and the surrounding landscape. He said now all they had to do was wait and see what the market and the new NDP government would do.
“We have done all we can and are looking to see what’s going to happen with the market and the new government in Edmonton,” stated Copeland.
Last year NaturEner allowed its permits for construction in Cypress County to lapse until their projects were shovel-ready. It will have to re-apply for those permits should they decide to go through with construction next year as planned.