Wind farm breezes past final hurdle

Plans for a wind farm near Halkirk have cleared a major hurdle. Calgary-based Greengate Power Corp. formally announced today that the Alberta Utilities Commission approved on Dec. 31 its application to erect 100 wind turbines, capable of generating 150 megawatt hours of power.

Plans for a wind farm near Halkirk have cleared a major hurdle.

Calgary-based Greengate Power Corp. formally announced today that the Alberta Utilities Commission approved on Dec. 31 its application to erect 100 wind turbines, capable of generating 150 megawatt hours of power.

With that hurdle now cleared, the company plans to start construction later this year, said Dan Balaban, president and CEO.

“We’re in the process of working on our logistics planning,” explained Balaban.

Todd Pawsey, development officer for the County of Paintearth, said local residents, business owners and owners of the properties on which the turbines are being built all anticipate benefits from the project.

Landowners welcome the turbines because they will add income on their farms, which have struggled with drought and with poor returns for their cattle, said Pawsey.

Local businesses are also looking forward to bidding on some of the construction work and county ratepayers will get a new partner on the tax roll, he said.

“For us, it’s an expansion of the municipal tax base,” said Pawsey.

A key factor in Greengate’s good relations with people living and working in the area rests largely on a decision the company made early on regarding compensation packages for landowners, said Balaban.

Greengate’s compensation package includes payments to neighbouring property owners, so people don’t have to have a tower on their land to reap their share of the benefits, he said.

From the beginning, Greengate worked closely with people in the community, county council and the affected landowners, he said.

A grant program from the federal government has also been essential in ensuring the success of the project, said Balaban.

Last month, the federal government announced that it would give Greengate $10 per mWh over the next 10 years, for a total of about $46 million.

“That federal grant is a very important element of the financing for the project. It provides us an important revenue stream over the first 10 years of the operation of the project,” said Balaban.

Government support is essential to ensure that Alberta can compete with other parts of the world that are promoting green energy, he said.

“There’s global competition for capital, and capital will flow to the jurisdictions that have projects that provide economic returns.”

Greengate has laid plans for six projects throughout Alberta, including Halkirk, Chigwell, Ponoka and Radar Hill in the central region. Between them, the projects would generate 1,550 mWh of electricity.

bkossowan@bprda.wpengine.com