Alberta’s wind industry looks to build long-term foundation

May 19, 2017

The Honourable Shannon Phillips, Alberta’s Minister of Environment and Parks, is accompanied by CanWEA president Robert Hornung on her way to deliver a keynote address at CanWEA’s 2017 Alberta Summit on May 9 in Edmonton.

It’s a busy time in Alberta’s wind energy sector right now.

The Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO) launched a competitive procurement for 400 MW of renewable energy in March, and companies are actively working to get their projects ready and respond to the AESO’s recently released request for qualifications. With 8,200 MW of wind energy on the AESO’s project list, and some of Canada’s most eager and experienced developers active in the province, the competition is going to be intense.

This first 400 MW request for proposals is only the first step in Alberta’s plan to add 5,000 MW of new renewable energy to its grid by 2030. This is a long-term opportunity both for our industry, and for Alberta. Getting it right is critical.

That’s why, even with so much on their plates right now, more than 180 industry participants, including developers, manufacturers and contractors, gathered in Edmonton last week for CanWEA’s first Alberta Summit. They were there to talk about how to ensure the first round of new wind projects, and the ones to follow, have a positive impact on the  economy, communities environment, and the electricity grid.

We know Albertans are counting on us. During a keynote address to the summit, Environment Minster Shannon Phillips talked about how her government’s renewable energy plans are an important part of its strategy to create jobs, diversify Alberta’s economy, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Our job is to deliver all of those benefits in a responsible and sustainable way.

We spent a lot of time at the summit talking about how traditional energy companies, battered in the last couple of years by the downturn in oil, can expand into wind and profit from the billions of dollars of new investment that will flow into the province over the next 14 years. In fact, CanWEA is in the first stages of a study to show Alberta businesses exactly where those opportunities lie along the wind energy supply chain.

Our industry also provides substantial economic benefits to communities that host wind farms, but those projects can only succeed with the support of local residents. One of the most well-received sessions at the summit focused on community engagement, where we heard from farmers, municipalities and First Nations groups about how we can work with them to build meaningful, long-term relationships based on trust, transparency and collaboration.

Other sessions during a jam-packed day looked at the proactive steps industry and government are taking to manage wind’s environmental impacts, the changes to Alberta’s electricity market that will be needed to enable the transition to a low-carbon future, and the innovative ways technology providers and system operators are developing to reliably integrate increasing amounts of wind energy on the grid.

Some of these discussions may seem far removed from the day-to-day business of building and operating wind farms, but every person at the Alberta Summit understood that they will be critical. Wind energy has been the largest source of new electricity supply in Canada in the last decade, and is not only the least expensive form of non-emitting generation available today, it also competes head-to-head with new gas-fired plants. We are a mature industry and a mainstream player, and we are poised to become a significant part of Alberta’s electricity supply mix.

Because of that, the wind industry must play a key role in the evolution of the province’s climate and electricity policies. We have a responsibility to continue working with all stakeholders on solutions that will support the government’s goals, as well as the electricity system’s requirements.  As the Alberta Summit amply demonstrated, we’ve got a lot to contribute.

I invite you to peruse photos and captions from the CanWEA Alberta Summit below. 

Michael Law, chief operating officer of the Alberta Electric System Operator, updates summit delegates on the province’s competitive renewable energy procurement process, which is now underway.

The Honourable Shannon Phillips, Alberta’s Minister of Environment and Parks, explains how renewable energy fits into here government’s economic and climate change strategies.

A well-received summit panel explored the opportunity for traditional energy companies and other Alberta-based companies to generate new business by participating in the wind energy supply chain. The panel consisted of, from left, Petroleum Services Association President and CEO Mark Salkeld, Senvion Canada Sales and Business Development Manager Jean-Christophe Mortreux, Lethbridge College Instructor Chris DeLisle, BluEarth Renewables Director of Market Development Roslyn McMann, and Sandra Moore, Research and Development Consultant with Sandra Moore Consulting.

Tracy Walden, CanWEA’s Director of Media and Communications, explains how earning the support of communities that host wind projects is critical to the success of both the industry and the province’s renewable energy strategy.

A panel of municipal, First Nations, agricultural and industry representatives discuss what it takes to build collaborative and mutually beneficial relationships with local stakeholders. The panel consisted of, from left, Innovative Research Group’s Greg Lyle, Pembina Institute Program Director – Electricity Binnu Jeyakumar, Greengate Power Corporation VP of Stakeholder Relations Dan Tocher, First Nations Power Authority Renewable Energy Project Manager Jai Roberts, Government of Alberta Energy, Utilities and Policy Specialist Michele Del Colle, and Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties President Al Kemmere.

A panel of technical experts explain how Alberta can reliably and cost-effectively integrate significant amounts of new wind energy on its grid. The panel consisted of, from left, Electric Reliability Council of Texas VP of Grid Ops and Planning Woody Rickerson, Natural Resources Canada Senior Wind Engineer Tom Levy, Albert Electicity System Operators Program Manager of Wind Integration Jacques Duchesne, GE Energy Consulting Technical Director Bahman Daryanian, President of Rocky Mountain Power and Energy Storage Canada Board Member Jan van Egteren, and Solas Energy Consulting Managing Director Paula McGarrigle.

The Alberta Summit included a tabletop exhibition featuring established and emerging companies in the province’s wind energy sector.

CanWEA president Robert Hornung and John Gorman, president and CEO of the Canadian Solar Industries Association (CanSIA) greeted delegates at a joint CanWEA-CanSIA networking session to close the Alberta Summit. The two associations are working together to engage Albertans and provide input to government as Alberta implements its renewable energy program.

CBC reporter, Heloise Rodriguez talks to Mark Salkeld, President and CEO of the Petroleum Services Association during a break in the summit program. Both the event and CanWEA’s summit news release attracted media attention, reflecting the strong interest Albertans have in learning more about the economic and environmental benefits of wind energy development.

Evan Wilson
Prairies Regional Director at the Canadian Wind Energy Association