Thursday, 07 December 2017 11:19

Energy company developing two wind energy project proposals in southwest Saskatchewan

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Members of the public had an opportunity to learn more about ENGIE Canada's proposed Wymark wind energy project at a public open house in Swift Current, Nov. 29. Members of the public had an opportunity to learn more about ENGIE Canada's proposed Wymark wind energy project at a public open house in Swift Current, Nov. 29.

The wind energy potential of southwest Saskatchewan is attracting the attention of independent power producers that are competing for contracts under SaskPower's procurement process for wind power generation.


ENGIE Canada hosted public open houses in the area for two wind energy project proposals that will be submitted to SaskPower.
The open house for the Wymark wind energy project took place at the Chinook golf course restaurant in Swift Current, Nov. 29. Another open house for the Benchlands wind energy project was held at the Gull Lake community hall, Nov. 30.
Rob Maitland, ENGIE Canada's director of business development, spoke to the Prairie Post at the Swift Current open house.
“The southwest of Saskatchewan is one of the windiest areas in Saskatchewan,” he said. “That’s why you see we’ve got several projects proposed in this area and so are our competitors. There’s going to be a lot of development in this area, because of the strongest wind regime and there’s several existing transmission lines, but over time SaskPower said they want some geographic diversity to where the projects are located. So I think you’ll see projects developing in other areas of the province as well.”
ENGIE Canada is a subsidiary of the global energy group ENGIE SA. Most of the company's current renewable energy facilities are located in eastern Canada. There are two wind farms on Prince Edward Island, one wind farm in New Brunswick, as well as six wind farms and two solar projects in Ontario.
In western Canada the company is currently operating one wind facility in British Columbia, but it has been developing projects in Saskatchewan since 2010.
“They’re all at the development stage,” he said. “We don’t have any operating projects in Saskatchewan right now, but we’ve got about eight different sites under development throughout Saskatchewan.”
The company is attracted to Saskatchewan because it has one of the strongest wind resources in Canada.
“The wind speed here will be much higher than Ontario, generally,” he said. “It also varies even within a province. There’s some sites in Saskatchewan that are quite windier than others.”
Good wind resources on its own is not enough to present an attractive case for investment in the province. At the moment wind energy supplies only about three per cent of Saskatchewan's electricity needs, but that is set to change because of SaskPower's decision to reduce emissions from power generating facilities with 40 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030, and to increase capacity from renewable generation sources with 50 per cent by 2030.
Wind power will be responsible for generating 30 per cent of this renewable energy by 2030, which will require the addition of 1,600 megawatt of wind power projects to the grid. The combination of these two factors – good wind resources and SaskPower's ambitious targets – therefore makes the province a good place for ENGIE and other independent power producers to develop renewable projects.
ENGIE will submit the proposals for the Wymark and Benchlands wind energy projects to SaskPower's first round of wind power procurement for projects with a size up to 200 megawatt. The closing date for submitting requests for proposals is March 1, 2018
For the first round, the bids are due March 1, 2018, and SaskPower will announce the contract winner(s) during the second quarter of 2018. It will be a tough competition with many competing bids from independent power producers that qualified for the procurement process.
“Fifteen companies qualified to bid and each company is allowed to bid up to three projects, and SaskPower is only going to pick one or two, because they’re only going to award 200 megawatts worth of contracts in this round,” Maitland explained. “So it will be a very steep competition, which makes our job tough, but it’s good for SaskPower and it’s good for electricity customers in Saskatchewan, because they’re going to get the lowest price of electricity possible.”
There will be several rounds of procurement to reach SaskPower's goal of 1,600 megawatt of new wind projects by 2030.
“So ourselves and our competitors will keep bidding in each round and you’ll probably see a mixture of different proponents winning in each round,” he said.
ENGIE's two proposals can be developed as 100 or 200 megawatt projects. In the case of a 100 megawatt project there will be between 25 and 40 wind turbines, depending on the generating capacity of each turbine. A 200 megawatt project will have 50 to 80 wind turbines.
A project will generate enough electricity to power approximately 70,000 homes. Both project sites are located on private land and power producers are required to negotiate a land lease with landowners before submitting their bids to SaskPower. Various studies are also conducted to identify any environmentally sensitive areas in the project areas.
“All the landowners we’ve talked to in the area are very positive about it,” he said. “A lot of interest in people signing the land and participating in the project as well as the local RM’s that we’ve spoken to for not just this site, but for a lot of our proposed projects with the province. They’ve all been very supportive so far.”
The proposed Wymark wind energy project is located about 25 kilometres southeast of Swift Current. The project area is on private land between Wymark and the existing Centennial wind farm.
“This is a pretty straightforward site,” he said. “It’s windy; it’s very close to an existing transmission line, and it’s almost entirely cultivated land and it’s extremely flat. So there’s no real major challenges. It’s a fairly straightforward site to develop and construct and permit.”
The proposed Benchlands wind energy project is south of Gull Lake on private land within the rural municipalities of Carmichael, Piapot and Arlington.
“That’s quite a large site,” he said. “So it has enough room for multiple phases.”
The topography of this area is more complex than the Wymark site, and there are some quarter sections with native prairie.
“We need to avoid that under the provincial siting guidelines,” he said. “You’re not allowed to build on native prairie. So we’re completely avoiding the native prairie and just focusing on building on the other quarter sections. It’s something we’re working around that we don’t have really in Wymark, because Wymark is almost 100 per cent cultivated.”
ENGIE has done a lot more detailed work for the Benchlands project site, because it has previously developed a wind energy proposal for this area.
“We’ve bid that project in 2011 and we’ve done all the environmental studies prior to that and we’ve done them again prior to this bid,” he said. “So that one is a little bit more advanced than the Wymark site just because we’ve had it for so many years, but the construction timing would be no different from this one, because SaskPower doesn’t want the project to come online until 2021. So we wouldn’t start building it until 2020.”
If ENGIE's bid is successful for either of these sites, the construction phase will create several hundred jobs. Each project will create about 10 long-term jobs during the operational phase.
“We’ll hire some people locally and our turbine supplier will hire some people,” he said. “Those are fewer jobs than the construction jobs, but they’re good, long-term steady jobs, because the project has a 25-year life. So local technicians and site managers and engineers that get hired, have a really stable long-term employment opportunity there.”
Maitland noted that ENGIE Canada is excited to develop these and other projects in Saskatchewan.
“We’ve had a great reception from local communities,” he said. “So we’re hoping that we’re successful and look forward to more development in the area.”

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Matthew Liebenberg

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