Sask. renewable energy project going public

Residents in the Swift Current, Sask., area will get their first official look next week at plans for a $90 million wind and solar renewable energy project.

SaskWind hopes the community will be impressed enough during Monday’s public meeting to take ownership of the project.

James Glennie, president of SaskWind, said the company has been meeting with the Rural Municipality of Swift Current for two years and discussing potential projects with SaskPower for four years.

It was time to let people know more details, he said.

The proposal includes six wind turbines on 70 acres and distributed across about 2,000 acres to allow continued use of the land. The turbines would generate 25 megawatts of power.

The solar portion would be 30,000 panels on ground-mounted racks on 100 acres and would generate 10 MW.

In total, the project would generate enough power for 12,000 average homes.

Glennie said people shouldn’t consider the project in isolation.

“The bigger thing is changes in the way we generate power,” he said.

SaskPower has said it wants to double the amount of power it receives from renewable energy by 2030. Twenty-five percent now comes from renewable sources.

“We need to invest about $5 billion as a province,” said Glennie.

“It represents an enormous opportunity.”

A final location hasn’t been established, but the Swift Current region is known for being windy and is already home to wind turbines.

Glennie said SaskWind wants the community to own 100 percent of the project to keep profits local. Projects in Germany and Denmark, which lead in renewable energy, follow this model, but it would be the first in North America, he said.

Farmers on whose land the project would be established would earn revenue from surface leases, and RMs would earn taxes.

“It is a hedge against crop risk,” Glennie said.

Critics have said renewable energy is too expensive to merit a strong switch away from coal, but Glennie said that is changing.

“Thirty years ago that was very true,” he said.

“Costs have fallen by 95 percent since 1980. They (renewable energy projects) are today directly competitive.”

Glennie expects a project near Swift Current could return $100 million to the local economy over 30 years.

SaskWind’s proposal is a fraction of the renewable energy that SaskPower plans to use.

The utility said it wants to reduce emissions by 40 percent from 2005 levels over 25 years and will need about 1,800 MW of wind power and 300 MW of solar to do that.

“For both solar and wind, we’ll be looking to private sector developers. Procurement processes will begin later this year,” said media spokesperson Heather Johnson.

Until then, the company is working with industry and internally to figure out how to integrate renewables into the grid.

Glennie, a geophysicist by training, said if SaskWind received the go-ahead immediately, it would still take more than two years to build the project, but it could be put up in stages.

He also said SaskWind is considering other locations for more projects.

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