By Collin Gallant
Alberta Newspaper Group
Disruption in the global supply chain is cited as the cause for a one-year delay in building a major wind farm in southeast Alberta, but the company behind Cypress Wind says the time could be used to lessen the footprint of the facility that is still proceeding with the $250-million project.
EDF Renewables was to begin construction of the 48-turbine facility – between Dunmore and the Cypress Hills – this spring, but hasn’t been able to order its preferred turbine model.
Officials told the News recently that will put construction off until at least late next year, but could give a window to upgrade machinery, and thereby reduce the number of towers.
“We’re definitely going forward but we have to find the right technological solution,” said Mark Gallagher, head of Canadian projects for the French multinational power producer.
“We have a contract in hand, we’re well capitalized, and we’re going forward with the project.”
Last fall the company received final permits for the facility, which is to be located on farm parcels 10 kilometres south of Irving, surrounding the intersection of Highways 41 and 515.
As part of local permitting the company agreed to a reclamation bonding system to clean up sites after a 25-year lifespan if the company chooses at that time not to modernize and recommission the array that could be able to produce 200 megawatts in peak conditions.
Delaying construction by no more than 18 months would fall within the parameters of a pricing contract EDF holds with the Alberta Electric System operator, but the 20-year term in that contract will begin on Jan. 1, 2021.
That means the company would lose out on one year of price certainty, but could reduce costs and increase production if fewer, but higher capacity turbines are used.
“We’re probably delayed (until) the end of 2021 by supply chain disruption, so we can take the time to ensure we are doing what’s best for the success of the project,” said Gallagher.
EDF’s wind farm is the second in the region that is seeing timelines extended due to the coronavirus pandemic and stress on global trade and economic conditions.
This spring Suncor announced it would delay the Forty Mile Wind project in an effort to preserve cash and arrange capital spending priorities for the energy giant that is also battling volatile crude oil prices.
Capital Power announced it had ordered equipment for an expansion of the Whitla Wind Farm that it green-lit in late 2019, and planned to proceed with the second phase.
BHEC has not publicly commented on the Rattlesnake wind project, also located in the County of Forty Mile. That project was also announced in late 2019 amid a flurry of private-sector announcements that did not benefit from a set pricing regime, but on private sector off-take contracts and general grid pricing forecasts.
In late 2018, Cypress Wind was was one of eight successful projects in the provincial government’s Renewable Energy Program auctions that offered set strike prices to green power providers for a 20-year period.
That was part of a plan to have 30 per cent of Alberta’s electricity production come from renewable sources by 2030, and bumps up rates when grid prices are high but claws them back when market prices are high.
Other successful companies in the 2018 rounds include Capstone Infrastructure (with a project in Special Areas No. 2), a Potentia Renewables project near Jenner, and several others in Warner County and southwest Alberta.
Another project in the 2017 round, EDP’s Sharp Hills project near Oyen, also altered its turbine choice and array, but changes required it to resubmit its proposal to the Alberta Utilities Commission for reapproval.
The new permit – reducing the number of tower sites from 83 to 71 – was issued in late 2019 following another round of objections from nearby landowners who opposed the project initially.