Canada - $1.38b grid boost in line for wind energy sector

Transmission loop to add capacity

The operator of Alberta's electric power system is proposing a $1.38-billion transmission "loop" to add up to five times as much wind power capacity to the provincial grid over the next 10 years. The Alberta Electric System Operator(AESO)is recommending the construction of a 240-kilovolt loop system to plug in up to 2,700 megawatts of wind power throughout southern Alberta. Wind now contributes about 500 MW of Alberta's 12,400 MW installed capacity.

The AESO will file its assessment and recommendation with the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) by the end of this year. Not all of the capacity would come on at once or necessarily at all.

"It's critical the transmission system has a flexible plan for development," said Neil Millar, vice-president of transmission for AESO. "By applying to the AUC for all the development but actually building it in stages as it's needed, we are in a better position to respond to the development pattern of wind in Alberta. A staged plan that balances the need for reinforcements as wind generation develops also enables prudent management of the cost of transmission development."

The transmission expansion will be built in three stages, with the first carrying a price tag of $750 million and adding up to 1,200 MW of additional wind power. The two latter stages will be triggered by wind proposals as they mature through the AESO's milestone process. These stages will cost $800 million and $280 million, respectively.

Jeff Bell, policy analyst for the Pembina Institute, said transmission lines that allow wind power to thrive is a "necessary evil." "This proposal would go some way to unlock the potential for wind power, but wouldn't go all the way by any means," he said. "We do recognize the lack of transmission capacity is a significant bottleneck to renewable energy development, wind in particular. We want maximum wind growth in the province."

The AESO has received expressions of interest for wind power projects adding up to 11,000 MW to the Alberta grid, of which 7,500 MW is in southern Alberta, said Ata Rehman, manager of the south system for AESO. He said the wind farm proposals range from about 10 MW to a couple of hundred megawatts and will be connected to the grid, provided they meet technical milestones, on a first-come first-served basis.

The commission is expected to rule on the need for the additional transmission space in the next six months, after which the provincial transmission facility owner, AltaLink, will identify line routes, submit project applications to the commission for approval and consult with stakeholders, particularly on routing of transmission lines. Rehman said he didn't expect a lot of opposition to the plan, judging by reactions at a series of recent open houses in southern Alberta. "There have been some concerns about land effects," he said.

The first stage of the plan will focus on the western side of the province, concentrating on where there is the most need, and include upgrading the Calgary-to-Pincher Creek link. Wind farms generate power only when the wind is blowing, which means other plants may have to be curtailed to make room in the system when the farms are producing.

Canada's wind energy capacity meets about one per cent of national electricity demand, according to the Canadian Wind Energy Association, with 85 wind farms representing 2,246 MW of generating capacity, producing enough power to meet the needs of 671,000 homes, according to the association.

Ontario is the current provincial leader with installed wind energy capacity of 781 MW, according to the association. Quebec follows at 531 MW and Alberta comes in at 524 MW. Globally, Germany leads the way at 23,300 MW, followed by the United States at 20,413 MW.

For more information, plese contact Trevor Sievert at ts@windfair.net
Edited by Trevor Sievert, Online Editorial Journalist / staff
wind energy, renewable energy, wind turbine, wind power, wind farm, rotorblade, onshore, offshore

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