By Collin Gallant
Southern Alberta Newspapers
Alberta power regulators have told the developer of a wind farm near Seven Persons that after 15 years, its plans will have to be resubmitted for new approval.
The Peace Butte Wind Farm was one of the first utility-scale wind farms proposed in southeast Alberta in 2006.
Though approved, construction has yet to commence as the company behind the project, Pteragen Canada, said it was waiting for the right market conditions in the changing green energy sector.
As is common, it received a series of two-year extensions to completion dates laid down by the Alberta Utilities Commission, but this month, the AUC denied its latest application to extend dates, citing length of time and new requirements from Alberta’s Environment Ministry.
“A significant amount of time has elapsed since the original approvals were issued for this project and since the current time extension applications were filed,” reads the decision, posted by the AUC on March 9.
It concludes that the original permit and licence, issued in 2013, is rescinded, but without prejudice, meaning the company would be allowed to file updated and current licence applications.
Attempts by the News to contact the company’s Canadian operation personnel were unsuccessful Monday. The company, Renovalia, was a subsidiary of a Spanish renewable company, but was purchased last year by Italian infrastructure investment firm F2i.
Peace Butte, a 60-turbine array, located 22 kilometres southwest of Medicine Hat east of Seven Persons, was first publicly announced in 2005.
After community consultation and agreements were struck with landowners, the plan was eventually granted a permit to build in 2013, with a 2016 in service date.
That was extended again in 2016 – a common occurrence for wind and solar projects that seek out set contracts, financing or regulatory changes, before proceeding to construction.
The most recent application for extension was launched in 2018 and cited a potential a move by the then-NDP government toward a capacity market as a signal of regulatory uncertainty. That has since been scrubbed by the United Conservatives following the 2019 election.
The application remained unprocessed through 2020, according to the recent ruling, when the AUC was informed that Alberta Environment and Parks had concerns about the project’s wildlife mitigation strategy.
That led the company to file an application to amend the power plant’s layout, reducing the number of towers from 60 to 22, while using higher-capacity turbines to maintain the same production output at 120-megawatts.
The AUC was awaiting a finalized plan at the time of the March Ruling, but ruled that those changes plus the length of time would require the approval process to start anew.
News coverage of the initial announcements 16 years ago cites company officials describing a potential $200-million budget. Fast forwarding to today, the industry standard for installing one megawatt of renewable power capacity in large-scale facilities is about $1.5 million, meaning the 120 MW project with 38 fewer tower locations might be completed for $180 million.