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Alberta government issues request for solar energy information

Alberta, Canada's largest oil and natural gas-producingprovince, is seeking input from developers on the best way to install andoperate solar power plants that would replace 135,000 MWh of electricity annuallyfrom a pair of contracts that expire at the end of 2017.

The provincial government wants respondents to the Requestfor Information, or RFI, to provide advice on the potential cost and bestapproach to procure solar power, the Ministry of Infrastructure said in astatement. The government said the call for information could lead to thedevelopment of Western Canada's first commercial solar farm. The expiringwind-energy contracts represent more than half of the government agency's powerpurchases of 250,000 MWh annually. The RFI will be open for three weeksstarting Oct. 6.

The ministry buys power for government-owned facilities andhas used electricity from renewable sources since 2006, which helped establishsome of the first wind farms in the province. Since 2009 all power supplied tomore than 1,500 province-owned sites has been from renewable sources, accordingto the Oct. 6 statement. Alberta has pledged to its use of renewables toreplace electricity from its fleet of coal-fired generators, which it hasordered closed by 2030.

"The Prairies have the best solar resources in Canadaand our government is committed to providing opportunities for the emergingsolar industry to take advantage of this natural resource," ShannonPhillips, Alberta's minister responsible for environment and climate change,said in the statement.

While Alberta's cold temperatures and short days duringwinter can affect the output of solar power plants, the plains in the southernportion of the province and neighboring Saskatchewan get the most sunshine inCanada. The region between Calgary, Alberta, and Estevan, Saskatchewan,receives more than 2,375 hours of bright sunshine annually, according toweatherstats.ca.

The two current contracts expire in December 2016 andDecember 2017, while a third contract for about 120,000 MWh annually lastsuntil 2024. If solar projects are used to fill contracts Alberta's productionfrom that source would increase 10-fold, according to the statement.

The government will provide details of the RFI through itsAlberta Purchasing Connection website.