Alberta�s largest wind project is nearing completion at Halkirk east of Stettler. On Wednesday area residents were invited to come out and see the progress on the project and had the chance to put their signature and a message on one of the 44 metre long turbine blades which was parked on a truck at the rodeo grounds in the village. This blade will soon be spinning on a 80 metre high wind turbine tower just east of Halkirk. 36 of the towers have been erected in the project to date and another 47 more towers will be installed before the end of the year bringing the total number of wind turbines to 83.

Putting wind on the grid

Alberta’s largest wind project was saluted in the Village of Halkirk on Wednesday.

Alberta’s largest wind project was saluted in the Village of Halkirk on Wednesday.

The project is expected to meet the average annual power needs of 50,000 homes.

Residents from the East-Central Alberta community and the surrounding area of Paintearth County toured the Halkirk wind project. A 44-metre turbine blade was displayed for the public to sign as well. Halkirk is located 120 km east of Red Deer.

Capital Power representatives were also on hand to talk about the project that’s been more than five years in the making. Greengate Power was the initial developer on the project before Edmonton-based power producer Capital Power bought the project out at $33 million.

The total project’s cost is estimated at $357 million.

Capital Power president Brian Vassjo said the project has been a long time coming, but has been well worth the wait.

It’s not only brought jobs, but will significantly add to Alberta’s supply of green energy, he said.

So far, 26 turbines standing on top of 80-metre-tall towers have been installed on properties between Halkirk and Castor. By the end of this year, 86 turbines will be stretched across 40 sections of land.

The project will generate 150 megawatts of green energy.

“When the wind blows, it goes into the grid,” said Vassjo. “Other forms of (power) generators back off, whether that’s natural gas or coal.”

Winds travelling between 30 and 60 km/h provide good capacity. When it gets to 70 or 80 km/h, then it’s too much to handle.

“The first step in developing a wind project is finding a region and measuring wind speed — usually that takes a couple of years,” said Vassjo.

Once that work is done, then the project builders must acquire rights from farms and go through regulatory processes.

“You need about six or seven years before you start seeing a wind project that is operating,” said Vassjo.

Construction involved a crew of almost 300 people, a number of whom were from the local area. The turbines, which will be operated and maintained by Vestus Wind Systems, will involve daily maintenance by 14 employees.

Vassjo said that the project has injected significant dollars into the region.

“We have found the hospitality and the whole attitude of the people to be extremely positive,” said Vassjo, adding he anticipated Wednesday’s celebration would be attended by 800 to 1,000 people.

Lower power prices will not support any new wind power development in Eastern and Southern Alberta, said Vassjo.

He anticipated that more projects will come on stream by the end of the decade. By this time, power prices will have increased and technologies will have improved, Vassjo said.

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