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Wind power developers upbeat about Alberta despite end of power project auctions

Scenic view of stream with wind turbines in background on rural landscape, Southern Alberta, Alberta, Canada, on Saturday, July 9, 2016. .
Scenic view of stream with wind turbines in background on rural landscape, Southern Alberta, Alberta, Canada, on Saturday, July 9, 2016. . THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Keith Levit

Panellists at a wind energy conference in Calgary say Alberta is still the best place in Canada to build renewable power projects despite the United Conservative government’s decision to unplug the previous NDP regime’s project auctions.

Grant Arnold, CEO of developer BluEarth Renewables, says his Calgary-based company is still fielding calls from corporations interested in buying green power because of its low cost, as well as its low emissions.

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On the sidelines of the Canadian Wind Energy Association conference, he said the NDP’s renewable electricity program, which offered guaranteed minimum power prices, attracted bids that were lower than competing power sources and therefore served their purpose in demonstrating that renewable energy could be cost competitive.

Demonstrating the trend, last week Calgary-based Perimeter Solar Inc. said it would move ahead with a $200-million, 130-megawatt solar power project in southern Alberta after signing a contract to sell just over half of the output to TC Energy Corp.

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Arnold says the open market in Alberta allows such deals to be struck between generator and customer, but they are prevented by regulation in most of the rest of Canada.

Evan Wilson, Prairies director for Canadian Wind Energy Association, says Alberta has the third-largest wind power sector in Canada and it supplies about seven per cent of provincial demand thanks to about 1,500 megawatts of capacity from 900 turbines at 37 projects.

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He says the sector is set to add about 1,300 megawatts over the next two years as projects approved under the NDP renewable electricity program (REP) come on line.

“The REP program let everyone know what we already knew, which is Alberta has a great wind resource and the price for wind power is now the cheapest form of new energy in the province,” Arnold said.

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“What that does with the current government is it opens up the chance for pure market deals, which is generators generating wind power that can be sold to corporations that want to buy it.”