December 20th, 2017 ~ Vol. 87 No. 51
Study shows renewable energy potential
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
Artwork: Vyk Harnett
Pass Herald Reporter
An updated feasibility report by Green Cat Renewables Canada Corporation shows the renewable energy potential within the Municipality of Crowsnest Pass, identifying four sites suitable for wind development and two for solar energy.

When identifying suitable areas for solar and wind projects, the study took into consideration the availability of the renewable resource, as well as technical, environmental and socio-economic constraints of the location.

All four of the identified areas for wind energy development are surrounding the central Coleman area, within 2 to 3 km of the town. The wind projects have varying capacity for energy generation ranging from 5- to 12-megawatts. To put it into perspective, a project generating 5 megawatts would require two 2.5-megawatt turbines, while the larger 12-megawatt project would be facilitated by five turbines of the same generation capacity.

As for the two solar developments, suitable locations were identified approximately 2 kilometres east of Sentinel and the other 4 kilometres north. The solar developments would be able to generate an energy capacity of 8 and 26 megawatts.

Each location comes with its own benefits – like proximity to the distribution network and roadway accessibility - and drawbacks – like challenging topography, ecological concerns and adjacent infrastructure.

“High visual impact” on the residents of Coleman is a drawback that was reiterated for all four sites for wind development, and it’s something that doesn’t sit well with Councillor Dean Ward.

Visual impact was just one of Councillor Ward’s concerns when it comes to renewable energy in the municipality. He also noted the uncertain nature of the renewable energy market, particularly following the end of this provincial government’s term.
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“The problem is that renewable energy is great, but only as long as the province is subsidizing it. There is so much uncertainty and we’re a community that can’t afford to take risks because of our financial state,” he says.

According to the study, using vertical axis turbines instead of the horizontal axis ones common in North America right now may reduce visual impact.

Councillor Ward made it expressly clear at a recent Council meeting that at this time, he will not be in favour of any investment by the municipality into renewable energy projects. He added that Administration would need to provide a cost-benefit analysis to justify any expenditure on green energy.

The municipality has already been contacted by a company enquiring in potentially developing a wind project in Crowsnest Pass, Temporis Development, a UK-based firm that develops and operates both commercial and residential wind, solar and biomass projects.

Temporis is not asking for any investment by the municipality, but there are various options for the municipality should they wish to get involved. Temporis can completely own, run and operate a project and the municipality only gets taxes according to benefits agreement through the joint ventures. Another scenario is that the municipality owns, runs and operates a project, and Temporis is simply acting as the founding agent and long-term consulting company.

Various benefits would be open to the municipality should they choose to invest in any type of renewable energy project.
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The study, which can be found on the municipality’s website, was presented to Council just a few days shy of the conclusion of the first round of bids in the province’s Renewable Electricity Program, which was created to encourage the development of 5,000 megawatts of renewable energy in Alberta by 2030.

The first round of bidding resulted in a nationally unprecedented low cost for wind development in all of Canada, at 3.7 cents per kilowatt hour of electricity. According to Alberta Energy, the average regulated rate in urban areas is 8.1 cents per kilowatt hour, while the average rate in rural parts of the province is 8.4 cents per kWh kilowatt hour.

Other than the clear advantage of significantly low cost of power for municipal facilities and residents, the municipality would also be eligible to partake in the carbon offset program.

Currently, the municipality pays a carbon tax on their facilities. The 2017 carbon tax on the Pass Community Pool, for example, was $868. The Coleman Sportsplex had a similar carbon levy for 2017. As an incentive to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the province is offering carbon credits for each unit of power generated by renewable resources, thereby providing the opportunity for the municipality to offset their carbon levy costs on the facilities.

“The Carbon Offset certificates are generated for each unit of power generated by renewable sources, these certificates have a value attached to them and can be traded to offset and reduce greenhouse gas emission from facilities, and processes that are emitters,” says the Green Cat study.

Renewable energy development in the Pass could also create employment for local skilled workers and contractors, taxation income if the project is not on municipal land and potential revenue from the sale of electricity.

Ultimately, the Green Cat study recommended that at this time, Crowsnest Pass wait on regulatory certainty regarding various provincial incentive programs anticipated to begin in the new year. It also recommended that the municipality take the first steps in beginning conversations with interested developers.

At a meeting on December 12, Council permitted Administration to continue talks with Temporis about the potential of considering an investment in this region as resources allow.
December 20th, 2017 ~ Vol. 87 No. 51
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