Alberta, Saskatchewan set to lead country in green energy growth
CALGARY -- The two provinces at the center of Canada's oil and gas industry are poised to lead the country in the growth of renewable energy according to a report released Tuesday by the Canada Energy Regulator. (CER)
"When people think about the Prairies, many of them think about fossil fuels," said Darren Christie, chief economist for the CER. "Interestingly, our projections show they are actually now leading the way in renewable energy growth, while national levels will slow in the next three years."
The online report, titled Canada’s Renewable Power, shows wind capacity will nearly double in Alberta and nearly triple in Saskatchewan, between 2020 and 2023. Significant solar capacity growth is also projected, with Alberta adding 1,200 MW by 2023.
Calgary-based Greengate Power has invested over a billion dollars in green power infrastructure in Canada. It is currently building the country’s largest solar generation facility the Travers solar farm near Vulcan. President and CEO Dan Balaban says he sees nothing but growth ahead.
“We know what's limiting the penetration, or percentage of renewables that can come on the grid is its ability to produce consistent power” says Balaban “I think once battery costs come down to the point that they enable that on an economic basis, I think we're going to see a ‘step change’ in terms of the penetration of renewables on the grid.”
Part of the reason for the comparatively rapid growth is that Alberta and Saskatchewan are far behind most other provinces in the production of electricity through renewable resources. According to Christie that’s largely because most other provinces have an abundance of hydro power that is simply not available in the two westernmost prairie provinces
In Alberta, the share of renewables in electric market is expected to increase from 16 per cent in 2017 to 26 per cent by 2023. Saskatchewan’s renewable share of capacity is expected to increase from 25 per cent in 2018 to 33 per cent in 2023.
Between 2010 and 2017, Alberta added 718 megawatts (MW) of renewable capacity, primarily in the form of wind. By 2023, the province is expected to add an additional 1,990 MW of new renewable capacity.
The move toward adding green energy on the prairies is driven in part by a geography and climate that is advantageous for wind and solar and government policy that will phase out coal-powered electricity production, but Christie maintains the largest factor is likely a favourable price for power, which can ensure a return on investment in green power.
"That is often a bigger driver of how economic, or not, any power source is. It’s not only about how much sunshine we have, and how much the wind blows," said Christie. "But what's our power price? And what do the renewables have to compete against? And what we see in both Alberta and Saskatchewan is that the recent projects in wind and solar are very economic."
Balaban says they are they only deregulated power generation market in Canada.
"And that allows power generators and power developers to come up with innovative and creative financing solution to enable their projects to go and I think that bodes very well, for Alberta," he said.
Paradoxically, Balaban believes that at the same time green energy gains greater acceptance, and a larger foothold in the market, it will also become more polarizing issue for many in Alberta and Saskatchewan.
“As renewable energy is becoming more mature, and seen as potentially a threat to the market share of fossil fuels, that's also raising the anxiety of people that have primarily been relying on the fossil fuel sector to earn living, and rightfully so” said Balaban “But the world changes, and the world evolves, and at the end of the day, I believe we have a choice; we can either get along for the ride and potentially even lead the lead the way - or we run the risk of let being left behind. I certainly don't believe or think we should be left behind.”
Recent and future projects included in the CER projection are:
- Whitla Wind 1, which added 202 MW in 2019.
- Whitla Wind 2, which is expected to add 97 MW in 2021.
- Sharp Hills Wind Farm, which is expected to add 249 MW in 2020.
- Castle Rock Ridge 2, a wind project that is expected to add 30.6 MW in 2022.
- Riverview Wind Farm, which is expected to add 97 MW in 2022.
- Cypress Wind Project, which is expected to add 202 MW in 2022.
- Stirling Wind Project, which is expected to add 113 MW in 2022.
- Buffalo Plains, a wind project that is expected to add 48 MW in 2022.
- Windrise Wind Project, which is expected to add 207 MW in 2022.
- Jenner Wind Power Project and Expansion, which is expected to add 194 MW in 2022.
- Brooks Solar, which added 15 MW in 2018.
- Claresholm Solar, which is expected to add 130 MW in 2021.
- Travers Solar, which is expected to add 400 MW in 2022.
- La Crete Biomass, which is expected to add 41 MW in 2020.
- Swan Hills Geothermal, which is expected to add 4 MW in 2021.
(Source: CER Canada’s Renewable Power,)