Southern Alberta is drawing international attention after the province approved Canada’s biggest-ever solar-electric installation, the 600-megawatt, privately-financed Travers Solar project in Vulcan County.
The grid-connected project’s 1.5 million panels will generate 800 million kilowatt-hours of electricity per year, enough to power 100,000 homes, CBC reports.
“It will be, by far, the largest solar energy project in Canada and one of the largest in the world,” said Dan Balaban, president and CEO of Calgary-based Greengate Power Corporation, the company behind the venture. “With the costs of renewable energy continuing to come down, we’ve now reached the point where renewable energy makes sense on a subsidy-free, market basis and can have a pretty significant role in our power mix.”
Balaban expects construction on the C$500-million project to begin next year, conclude in 2021, and create several hundred jobs.
CBC says the country’s two largest solar farms to date have been the Sol-Luce Kingston and Grand Renewable Energy Park projects, both in Ontario and both rated in the 100-megawatt range. Most projects in Canada range from five to 25 MW, Greentech Media reports, citing data from its parent company, Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables.
But with Travers Solar now approved by the Alberta Utilities Commission, Greentech is asking whether that’s about to change. “So far, Canada hasn’t seen the whoppingly large projects that have cropped up south of its border,” writes reporter Emma Foehringer-Merchant. But this project will “put Canada within reach of other eye-popping solar projects around the world, like the 754-megawatt Villanueva project in Mexico or the 579-megawatt Solar Star project in California.”
Balaban, whose company works in wind as well as solar, is touting a bright future for the province.
“We’ve been developing renewable energy in Alberta for more than 12 years. Wind, over the last decade, has been more cost-competitive than solar,” he told Foehringer-Merchant. “But solar has reached the tipping point where I believe [it] is the most cost-competitive renewable in Alberta.”
Greentech recaps recent uncertainties in Canada’s renewable energy markets, after Ontario Premier Doug Ford seized power last summer and summarily cancelled 758 signed contracts with small power providers. That action sent “a ripple of anxiety through the country’s largest market,” Greentech writes, not long before the new Jason Kenney government in Alberta cancelled a renewable energy auction and abandoned the province’s 30% renewable energy target.
But Balaban said the ability to deliver subsidy-free power will sustain solar in Alberta’s deregulated electricity market, while the federal government’s backstop price on carbon will offer more certainty to industry.
“The megaprojects that make economic sense elsewhere in North America and…around the globe can also work right here in Alberta,” he said. “Canada and Alberta are politically stable places to invest, and we think this is a very attractive project in a very attractive part of the world.”