Houston — Capital Power Corp. is moving into phase three of its Whitla Wind facility, which will increase the project to 353 MW once complete at the end of 2021, making it the largest wind facility in Alberta.
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Phase three will expand the facility, located in the County of Forty Mile in southeastern Alberta, by constructing the 54-MW Whitla Wind 3, according to a company statement.
"As a company focused on delivering responsible energy for tomorrow, we work to build and grow our renewable asset portfolio alongside our natural gas baseload generation assets," Capital Power Spokeswoman Katherine Perron said June 26. "Currently, we own 10 wind facilities in Canada and the US, representing 1,217 MW of our generation portfolio."
Capital Power has initiated the permitting process by filing an application to connect Whitla Wind 3 to the Alberta Interconnected Electric System, Perron said. Whitla Wind 3 is currently in stage 1 of the AESO's connection process for a behind-the-fence connection and is expecting to complete the process before the end of 2020.
This summer, Capital Power will apply to the Alberta Utilities Commission to amend the existing Power Plant Approval that allows for construction and operation of Whitla Wind 1 and 2, Perron said.
Largest wind project in Alberta
Currently, the 202-MW Whitla Wind 1 is the second largest in Alberta, behind the 299-MW Blackspring Ridge Wind Project, according to data from the Canadian Wind Energy Association. Once phase two and three are complete, it could also be the largest in Canada.
Suncor announced in 2019 the 395-MW Forty Mile Wind Power Project. The project broke ground in late 2019, but a revised capital plan released in March 2020 listed the project on hold for at least two years, said Evan Wilson, Prairies regional director at the Canadian Wind Energy Association.
Subject to regulatory approvals and with an estimated capital cost of $92 million, construction of Whitla Wind 3 is expected to begin in the second quarter of 2021, according to a company statement. It will be constructed concurrently with the 97-MW Whitla Wind 2 and will be complete by the end of 2021.
Whitla Wind 3 will generate carbon credits that can be used to hedge against Capital Power's carbon compliance costs from its Alberta thermal generation facilities, according to the company statement. Capital Power is in active discussions with commercial and industrial customers for renewable offtake contracts for Whitla Wind 2 and will now include Whitla Wind 3.
Alberta's wind resources
The 202-MW Whitla Wind 1 began commercial operations in December 2019 and was one of four wind projects to be awarded a 20-year contract by AESO in the first round of the Renewable Electricity Program.
The REP was created after the Government of Alberta directed AESO in January 2016 to develop and implement a program to bring on new renewable generation capacity, according to the AESO. The goal was 30% renewable generation by 2030.
After three rounds, the program was cancelled when the United Conservative Party won the May 2019 election, said Morris Greenberg, S&P Global Platts North American power analytics senior manager.
"Most of the projects awarded earlier will likely be completed," Greenberg said. "In addition, there have been some new merchant projects announced indicating that Alberta wind may be competitive without revenue guarantees."
Developers would need to have confidence that wind capture prices exceed costs, which are evidently in the high C$30s range, Greenberg said.
By 2023, 317.6 MW of wind capacity will be added to the grid, 200 MW of which is being built through the REP, according to current CanWEA data.
"Southern Alberta will see most of these additions, due to the strength of the wind resource," Wilson said.
Canada ranks ninth in the world for total onshore installed wind capacity, according to CanWEA. Alberta ranks third within Canada with an installed wind energy capacity of 1,685 MW. There are currently 38 projects underway in Alberta.