Saskatchewan’s first large-scale wind energy project has been approved. Algonquin Power Co.’s Blue Hill Wind Energy Project is expected to produce 177 megawatts of power, enough to power more than 70,000 homes according to SaskPower.
The project will be located south of Herbert, Sask. and is expected to include up to 56 wind turbines.
“This new wind energy project demonstrates our government’s commitment to renewable energy and greenhouse gas emission reductions, both clear goals in our comprehensive provincial climate change strategy,” Environment Minister Dustin Duncan said in a statement.
The project will begin construction next year, with service possible in 2021.
The wind farm was originally expected to be operational in 2016 at a site near Chaplin, Sask. However, the Ministry of Environment said a new location had to be found due to the proposed site being too close to a migratory bird route and sanctuary.
The project still had to go through the regulatory review process at the new site near Herbert.
“Algonquin has made extensive efforts to ensure the project meets or exceeds the needs of stakeholders,” Algonquin Power & Utilities Corp chief executive officer Ian Robertson said. “We look forward to continuing this work as we transition to the next phase of the project.”
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The ministry says Algonquin has proposed several measures to reduce wildlife impact at the Herbert site. This includes installing “bird diverters” on transmission lines and providing adequate setback from Reed Lake in an effort to reduce bird and bat collisions.
Algonquin will also follow ministry guidelines, which include post-construction monitoring and mitigation of bird and bat fatalities.
The power company had to go through another environmental assessment for the Herbert site. Now that it has been established what parts of the province will be off limits to wind power due to bird migration, Duncan said future assessments should be faster.
“I think that now the proponents, right at the beginning, will be able to see the the guidelines for potential siting, that really takes the uncertainty away from a proponents point of view in terms of how it will be judged through the environmental assessment process,” Duncan said. “So I think we’ll see the ability to approve projects as they come forward in a much more timely fashion.”
Duncan added this is an important part of the province’s climate plan, Prairie Resilience, in helping reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
It also factors into the 2030 SaskPower goal to have up to 50 per cent renewable generation by that year, and reducing power generation emissions by 40 per cent.
According to SaskPower, five per cent of electricity is currently produced by wind power, 221 megawatts. Their modelling shows wind power is expected to produce 30 per cent of the province’s electricity by 2030. The remainder of the 50 per cent will be covered mostly by hyrdo; along with solar, biomass and other sources.
Duncan anticipates announcing approval for a 200 megawatt wind power plant by the end of 2018.
While this is the first large-scale wind generation project in Saskatchewan, it is the seventh privately owned wind development.