Solar energy in southern Alberta: ‘The best place in Canada to do this kind of work’

Click to play video: 'A bright future for southern Alberta'
A bright future for southern Alberta
WATCH ABOVE: Southern Alberta is known for the wind power, but in the last few years people are starting to look at a different green energy – Jul 8, 2021

Southern Alberta is known for its wind power, but in the last couple of years, there’s been a different kind of green energy drawing attention.

“It’s well known that Alberta has phenomenal fossil fuel resources, but what’s not as well known — and is becoming more well known now — is we also have phenomenal renewable energy resources,” said Dan Balaba, CEO of Greengate Power.

“The solar resource in southern Alberta is as good as the solar resource in Florida for the purpose of producing electricity from the sun.”

When asked to describe Greengate Power, Balaban said they take an idea for a renewable energy project and put in the work that’s required to turn that idea into an operating project.

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Amazon recently signed a power purchase agreement with Greengate Energy for their new solar farm, the Travers Solar Project.

“It’s going to consist of more than 1.3 million solar panels spread out over more than 3,000 acres of land,” said Balaban. “To just to give you an idea, a project of that size is capable of producing enough power for 150,000 homes.”

The $700-million Travers Solar Project is under construction in Vulcan County. Construction is expected to produce 500 jobs and be completed towards the end of 2022.

Click to play video: 'Largest solar energy project in Canada coming to Vulcan, Alberta'
Largest solar energy project in Canada coming to Vulcan, Alberta

It’s set to be the largest solar farm in Canada, and one of the largest in the world. But, it’s not the first time sunny southern Alberta has brought out the solar panels.

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Towns in the region have already, or are planning, to commit to net-zero. They’re using what comes naturally to the area.

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“Southern Alberta should be leading the way on developing solar, on developing wind, on developing battery, on developing a green economy,” said James Byrne, a professor from the University of Lethbridge’s Department of Geology and Environment.

According to the Business Renewable Centre of Canada, 2021 is already breaking records for Corporate Renewable Energy Deals. All of the deals so far are based in Alberta.

“There’s a real benefit to the communities here,” said Rebecca Nadel, director of the Business Renewables Centre of Canada.

“The tax revenue and so forth that comes from these large projects.

“Alberta’s really taking advantage, having that deregulated market, having these projects all happening in Alberta is, I think, a real benefit I economically and financially to our area.”

Nadel said the deregulated market allows for direct offtake agreements between buyers and sellers when it comes to renewable energy.

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For example, Amazon bought 375-megawatts from the 465-megawatt Travers Solar Project.

“It gives the developer the guarantee that they’ve got a buyer who’s going to be buying that electricity for quite a number of years,” said Nadel.

“And then it gives Amazon the ability to say that they’re purchasing essentially green electricity. So they can talk about meeting their global targets and their Canadian targets of powering their operations with renewable electricity.”

For Byrne, using solar power is a no-brainer investment.

“Solar lasts,” he said. “Once it’s in place it lasts for 25, 30 years.

“It’s very cost-effective. Your energy costs are fixed for 25 years. It just costs you to build the solar initially, but then it’s a wonderful, wonderful source of clean, green energy.”

Click to play video: 'Alberta energy industry undergoing green transition'
Alberta energy industry undergoing green transition

Balaban is excited for the Travers Solar Project and what it means for green energy, especially in Alberta.

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“This is an example of a win-win,” he said.

“Clearly it’s a win for the environment, but it’s also a win for the economy.

“It creates jobs, it creates municipal tax revenues and an ongoing income source for landowners. But I think it’s also a great look for Alberta as we’re moving into a world where the global energy system is transitioning.

“I think for Alberta to host the largest solar project in the country, one of the largest in the world, is great for our future.”

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