The Alberta government will not be moving forward with approvals for new ‘green energy’ projects amid concerns from residents on responsible land use.
As of August 3, the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) has officially paused renewable electricity generation projects over one megawatt until February 29, 2024.
According to the province, the AUC is set to review its framework on ‘green energy’ after the province received feedback from municipalities and landowners opposed to the rapid pace of its development.
The AUC will specifically review the use of agricultural and public lands for wind and solar projects, with further inquiry on land reclamation, and the role of municipal governments in these developments.
Pipeline Online reported Alberta's energy output from wind plummeted to 0.8% capacity, with 29 MW generated just after midnight on April 4.
Alberta wind farms can produce 3,618 megawatts at total capacity but dwindled during the frigid cold winter months.
On the evening of February 23, the extreme cold nearly slowed wind farms across the province, tanking to between 11 and 20 megawatts (0.3%) with 31 turbines not operational.
Below -30°C temperatures, wind turbines hibernate and are susceptible to breaking, forcing the province to rely on fossil fuels to sustain its grid — constituting 91.3% of all power generation.
"Wind is at 0.4% of capacity and produces 0.1% of total generation, while solar is at 33.2% of capacity and 3.61% of total generation. At the same time, we are importing 811 MW or 7%," tweeted Reliable AB Energy, which tracks Alberta's energy grid.
"At this point, the business case behind using solar and wind power is often very weak because these two sources of power are often unreliable — the sun doesn't always shine, and the wind doesn't always blow," said Colin Craig, president of SecondStreet.org.
Despite the unreliability of wind farms to sustain Alberta's energy crunch, TransAlta Corporation intends to build another wind power plant in Cardston County with up to 50 operational turbines.
The proposed Riplinger Wind Power Project has ruffled some feathers in southern Alberta, with residents citing poor planning and communication from the company. They lament it would disrupt local businesses and wildlife.
"There is inherent value in wild spaces, and we have far too few intact landscapes left, and this is one of them," said resident Julia Palmer, who adds there is value in wind power, but not at the suggested location.
"There is inherent value in wild spaces, and we have far too few intact landscapes left, and this is one of them," she said.
Located approximately 30 kilometres southeast of Pincher Creek, the development would see up to 50 turbines generate about 300 megawatts of power.
Though Palmer and others worry about the habitat and wish the company had engaged in more meaningful public consultation on the project, the company said it conducted the necessary environmental studies.
"One of TransAlta's core values is sustainability, and environmental impacts are carefully managed and mitigated with any of our projects," reads a statement by TransAlta.
"TransAlta has secured all the lands necessary for the project, completed the suite of environmental studies required by Alberta Environment and Protected Areas, preliminary geotechnical surveys, preliminary engineering, and is on track for applying for Permit & License to the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) in Q2 or Q3 2023."
Residents also wished the energy producer had advertised the project to the broader community, as only those within 1,500 metres of the proposed project boundaries received mail notification in December 2022.
"I heard about it through word of mouth," said Hill Spring resident William Merrie. "It's kind of the consensus around town that there wasn't a lot of communication from TransAlta."
Vaughn Smith, who owns a campground in the county, said it could disrupt the views.
"A transmission line or even some windmills now or in the future in that view, that's going to be devastating for our business," he said.
According to TransAlta, it's in the "mid-stage" of the project.
"The project is also advancing through the AESO interconnection queue. Construction will not occur until regulatory approval has been granted and would take between 12 and 18 months."
The company expects AUC approval sometime in 2024, with the facility coming online in late 2025.