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Power company looking for “incentives” to continue wind power project — that means taxpayer subsidies

A line of turbines on metal lattice legs catch the breeze at the Cowley Ridge wind farm in southern Alberta. The 23-year-old facility, Canada's first commercial wind project, is being decommissioned.

A line of turbines on metal lattice legs catch the breeze at the Cowley Ridge wind farm in southern Alberta. The 23-year-old facility, Canada’s first commercial wind project, is being decommissioned. Ted Rhodes / Calgary Herald

 

The oldest commercial wind power facility in Canada has been shut down and faces demolition after 23 years of transforming brisk southern Alberta breezes into electricity — and its owner says building a replacement depends on the next moves of the provincial NDP government.

TransAlta Corp. said Tuesday the blades on 57 turbines at its Cowley Ridge facility near Pincher Creek have already been halted and the towers are to be toppled and recycled for scrap metal this spring. The company inherited the now-obsolete facility, built between 1993 and 1994, as part of its $1.6-billion hostile takeover of Calgary-based Canadian Hydro Developers Inc. in 2009.

“TransAlta is very interested in repowering this site. Unfortunately, right now, it’s not economically feasible,” Wayne Oliver, operations supervisor for TransAlta’s wind operations in Pincher Creek and Fort Macleod, said in an interview.

“We’re anxiously waiting to see what incentives might come from our new government. . . . Alberta is an open market and the wholesale price when it’s windy is quite low, so there’s just not the return on investment in today’s situation. So, if there is an incentive, we’d jump all over that.”

In February, TransAlta president and chief executive Dawn Farrell said the company’s plans to invest in hydroelectric, wind, solar and natural gas cogeneration facilities in Alberta were on hold until the details of the province’s climate-change plans are known.

“We cannot make any major investment decisions in this market until we have more clarity around the policy environment and the policy recommendations turn into actual law and we know what the market is actually going to be like,” she said.

Last November, Premier Rachel Notley’s government vowed that coal-fired power plants would be forced to shut down or be emissions-free by 2030. Coal power companies in Alberta, including TransAlta, are looking for compensation.

Jean-François Nolet, vice-president of policy and communications at the Canadian Wind Energy Association, said Tuesday his organization has been included in the NDP government’s consultations and is optimistic that changes will be made to encourage wind power growth.

“What the investors need to see is more certainty in the market,” he said, adding that it “just makes sense” that a wind farm such as Cowley Ridge that is already connected to the grid and has a proven wind resource is rebuilt to continue to provide renewable energy.

Read the full story here: Calgary Herald, March 15, 2016

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