Alberta Company to Build New Wind Farm for Schoolboards

Wind Turbines in Wheat Farm

By Maura Forrest

July 2, 2015

Alberta will soon be home to a new wind farm, thanks to an agreement between a Calgary-based renewable energy company and 25 of the province’s schoolboards.

BluEarth Renewables Inc. will begin building its $80-million Bull Creek wind project northeast of Provost next month.

The wind farm will have 17 turbines and a capacity of 29.2 megawatts. That’s smaller than the original proposal, which laid out plans for a 46-turbine wind farm that would have produced up to 115 megawatts.

The project has been scaled back to meet the needs of the schoolboards, which have entered into a 25-year power purchase agreement with the energy company.

Chief Executive Kent Brown told the Calgary Herald that BluEarth Renewables has another project called Hand Hills that has all its permits, but has yet to attract a purchaser.

“We certainly would like to build more than one wind plant in Alberta,” he said. “We have a number of solar sites in southern Alberta that we are advancing as well but no off-takers at this point.”

Brown said his company is on track to have $750 million of operating assets by the end of the year and $1 billion of operating assets by 2017.

Power purchase agreements are one of the easier ways for renewable energy projects to get off the ground, as they provide long-term debt financing that keeps capital costs down.

But those long-term contracts can be hard to nail down in Alberta, as Brown pointed out in a 2014 interview with Beacon Energy News.

“Power purchasing agreements generally don’t exist in the market place today,” he said. “They’re very difficult to come by. Other provinces are regulated and have competitive procurement processes to buy power.”

But that may start to change with the coming alterations to Alberta’s carbon policy.

The province announced last week that it will be doubling its carbon levy over the next two years. Currently, any facility that emits more than 100,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases in a year must pay $15 per tonne, but only if it doesn’t cut its emissions intensity by at least 12 per cent from a baseline unique to each company.

Under the new NDP government, the levy will be raised to $20 in 2016 and $30 in 2017, and the emissions intensity baseline will be increased to 15 per cent in 2016 and 20 per cent in 2017.

The tighter regulations could encourage more of the province’s big polluters to sign purchase power agreements with renewable energy companies, as the clean power would help them offset their own emissions.