By Collin Gallant
Southern Alberta Newspapers
Thirty kilometre per hour gusts greeted dignitaries to the grand opening of the Cypress Wind 1 and 2 power projects on Sept. 28, and the company behind the project continues to predict favourable winds in the Alberta power market.
EDF Renewables Canada designed and built the $350-million project, which sees 48 turbines – visible from Medicine Hat – sit along the west side of Highway 41 between the Trans-Canada and the Cypress Hills.
“It’s a big milestone and a big investment into Alberta and southern Alberta,” said Cory Basil, the regional vice-president for EDF Renewables North America.
“We completed it in two phases, and while some of the turbines were operational (in 2022), we’ve commissioned the entire project and we’re cutting the ribbon today.”
The ribbon cutting and traditional ceremonies involving the Blood Tribe, which is a shareholder, also takes place two months after the Alberta government announced it would study bringing in stricter requirements for project development.
That could include security bonding for reclamation (EDF struck its own bonding deal with Cypress County during the local planning approval process), as well as municipal, agricultural and other considerations.
EDF already has regulatory approval to build the “Bull Trail” wind farm on the east side of Highway 41 across from Cypress Energy, but recently asked regulators for a multi-year extension as power line capacity issues are studied.
“We’re very encouraged about the progress we’ve made and success that we’ve had in Alberta,” said Basil. “We have other projects that we’re developing in Alberta, and we’re encouraged by what the government is doing to look at how they can encourage more renewable energy in the future and in a sustainable way. We’ve been a part of that up to now and we’ll be a part of it in the future.”
EDF Renewables Canada owns 37.5 per cent of the wind farm, as does Quebec financial co-op Desjardins, while the Blood Tribe holds the remaining one-quarter interest.
Following a ceremony and ribbon cutting with Blood Tribe elders, Chief Roy Fox said the project features Indigenous participation that will produce benefits.
“(It) is an important step toward breaking down barriers that stand in the way of economic reconciliation,” he said.
Basil stated the company’s operations centred near the site employs 10 full-time operators after 220 construction workers from Borea Construction completed the wind farm.
The operational lifespan will be in the 30-year range, Basil added.
Cypress County Reeve Dan Hamilton stated utility-scale power production is part of the county’s municipal growth plan.
“We look forward to seeing EDF continue to work with the community in a positive way, developing renewable energy while also being accountable and listening to ratepayers.”
At the same event, EDF announced that the second round of funding from its $10,000 annual “Project Community Fund” in the area will be allotted to the Dunmore Equestrian Society, the Dunmore Community Association, Irvine Minor Hockey, the Irvine School parent council and Eagle Butte High School.
The initial 200-megawatt phase of Cypress was part of the Alberta Renewable Energy Program auction, which offered long-term supply contracts to lowest bidders in 2018.
Specific contract rates were not released, but the average of eight winning projects was in the 4 cent per kilowatt hour range.
Cypress 1 was completed in 2022, and the second phase, Cypress 2, was completed this summer. It has a top capacity of about 50 megawatts that will be sold onto the Alberta energy market where rates are determined hourly, largely by supply and demand.