Alberta 900 MW Cap on Wind Power Lifted

Alberta, Canada’s self-imposed wind generation cap of 900 megawatts (MW) has been lifted following the government’s completion of an interconnection and transmission study. Wind intermittency and maintaining constant balance between supply and demand within the provincial grid system were the major reasons cited for the cap.

Market and business structure allowing for large-scale wind production also required further study.

In April 2006, these concerns prompted the 900 MW cap, which critics such as The Pembina Institute, Canada’s energy watchdog, considered an unnecessary burden on the fledgling Canadian wind power industry.

“While the news is encouraging, as a province we are now just stepping back up to the plate that we had backed away from over a year ago,” says Tim Weis, Senior Technical and Policy Analyst at the Pembina Institute. “There is lots of work still to be done, and we have to make up for the time we lost since the threshold was first imposed.”

Today the province has 497 megawatts of wind, with 500 more scheduled for interconnection by year’s end. This will bring wind energy’s share of total generation in Alberta to 4%.

Over 5,000 megawatts are currently in various stages of study and development, a testament to the quality of the wind resource in the region.

In February 2007, the Alberta Electrical Service Operator (AESO) and the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CANWEA) started consultations to grapple with the unanswered questions of integration and transmission, as well as market and pricing-based issues. A detailed wind forecasting study was also launched, with a focus on the plains and foothills in the province’s southwest region.

In April the Market and Operational Framework for Wind Integration was published, a policy that outlines the technical, economic, and regulatory parameters for the business of Alberta wind power.

Lifting the 900 MW cap provides more good news for CANWEA’s annual industry gathering, which took place this year in Quebec City from September 30 to October 3. David Huggill, the organization’s Western Canada policy manager, spoke from the conference.

“Though CANWEA did at no time support the cap, we worked together with the AESO and a strategic group of CANWEA members, and in the Spring we made great progress towards developing this framework,” said Huggill. “The cap was in a way a wake-up call to the electrical operator that it’s time understand and deal with the wind industry.”

One of the major tasks that can now go ahead is the completion of transmission upgrades in the Pincher Creek to Lethbridge area, two hundred kilometers south of Calgary.

Once the 240 kilovolt line is in place, an additional 1,200 megawatts of wind power will a have a path to Alberta’s homes and businesses. This work is set for completion by early 2009.

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