Competing in the Renewable Energy Program

Proposing wind projects in Alberta

by Jillian Clark
Wind turbine at the Old Man 1 wind farm.

Wind turbine at the Old Man 1 wind farm. — photo courtesy AWEC

The Alberta Wind Energy Corporation (AWEC) was founded in 2003 with the goal of developing independent wind farm projects. “A group of individuals from Whitecourt, Alberta, put the company together,” said Marc Stachiw, president of AWEC. “They were looking at potential wind farms around Pincher Creek. It was early days in the wind industry in Alberta and that was a very interesting area for them.”

Responding to a need for renewables created a company that has withstood the test of time in Alberta’s growing wind industry. AWEC still has ownership stake in Old Man 1, one of its original wind farms. Now, AWEC has partnered with Boralex under the name Alberta Renewable Power Limited Partnership (ARPP). Together, they own Windy Point Wind Farm, and Old Elm and Pothole Creek wind farms, both of which they submitted to compete for a contract in the  Alberta Electric System Operator's (AESO) Renewable Energy Program.

Boralex’s Canadian portfolio of renewable projects is expansive and representative of their expertise. Boralex is one of the longest standing renewable companies in Canada. “There had been a number of companies we were talking to, and we were really impressed with Boralex’s reputation and development history,” said Stachiw. “It’s a good fit.”

While Boralex expands across Canada, the company had yet to join Alberta’s renewable program. AWEC has only focused on Alberta.

“We have a knowledge of the interconnection process, permitting process, so we bring those elements to the partnership,” Stachiw said. “What Boralex brings to the partnership is the technical expertise as far as engineering and environmental studies and other technical aspects of developing a project that typically otherwise we would have to outsource a consultant.”

The competition begins

Windy Point is a 63-megawatt wind farm located near Pincher Creek, Alberta.

“We are looking at a few alternatives for size and for turbine,” Stachiw said. “It’s in a great wind regime, and it’s located next to transmission, so I think it’s going to be a competitive project.” The Old Elm Project is a 60-megawatt project located south of the town of McGrath. Both wind projects submitted to the AESO are in late-stage development as AWEC and Boralex work through the configurations.

“I think the AESO ran a clean process and stuck to the timeline they had originally announced,” said Stachiw. All companies who submitted projects are eagerly waiting to hear the results, as well as the start date of Round 2. “There has been news of Round 2 being announced shortly. Whether that happens before or after they announce the winners of Round 1 we aren’t sure, but it has been talked about,” said Stachiw. 

Right now, ARPP is preparing its projects for every possibility.

“We have to operate as if they will win the contract because you don’t want to lose six months of development, so we are pushing our projects ahead as aggressively as we can,” said Stachiw. If they are awarded a contract, ARPP will have to complete its project by December 1, 2019, so there is no time to waste. “If it happens that our projects aren’t successful in Round 1, we will look at getting into Round 2.”

Another option ARPP is exploring is selling its wind power directly to the merchant market, or to an end user. “Alberta is still a deregulated market, and there still is the option for us to sell to someone outside of the AESO,” Stachiw said. However, “that’s a bit more difficult because of the variability of power prices and the difficulty of attracting financing based on a merchant market.”

The price of renewables in Alberta

“I think the current government has done a lot for the industry,” said Stachiw, referring to the Renewable Energy Program (REP). In Canada, Alberta and Saskatchewan are the leaders in terms of those currently actively procuring renewable projects. “I think the place to be in renewables is Alberta.”

The REP in particular is expected to make waves in energy pricing. “I think we will have to see how things fall out of the first round of procurement. It’s difficult to predict who the winners will be or what the prices will be,” Stachiw said.

The wind industry is looking to the AESO to solidify large and long-term investments because renewable projects—especially wind—are capital-intensive investments. “I think the public is going to be surprised to see how low the power price will be for renewables,” he said. 

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