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Alberta Surges, Ontario Fades as Canada’s Leading Jurisdiction for Wind, Solar

Alberta is set to surpass Ontario as Canada’s leading jurisdiction for utility-scale wind and solar, with 83% of the country’s new installations over the next five years, according to a new analysis by Oslo-based Rystad Energy.

The flurry of activity would increase Alberta’s installed capacity from 1.8 gigawatts of wind and 100 megawatts of solar today, to 6.5 GW of wind and 1.8 GW of solar by 2025, CBC reports. The total would inch past Ontario’s projected capacity of 5.8 GW of wind, 1.8 GW of solar.

The calculations exclude rooftop solar and any other projects under a megawatt in size.

Rystad analyst Felix Tan said Canada’s decision to phase out coal-fired electricity by 2030 “opens the door” for a larger role for wind and solar, while Alberta’s deregulated electricity market creates a more hospitable business environment for the technologies.

“We have seen a lot of capacity build-out over the past two, three, four years in places like Ontario, in B.C., and Quebec,” Tan told CBC. Now, “Alberta is sort of playing catch up.”

Blake Shaffer, an assistant professor of economics and public policy at the University of Calgary, said he was forecasting less growth in the Alberta renewables market but agreed with Rystad’s overall direction. “Whether or not we surpass Ontario in that time frame, I can’t say definitively right now,” he said. “But certainly it’s going to grow. And it’s simply a function that the cost of building renewables has just gotten so cheap.”

He added that Alberta is becoming a growth leader for renewables in Canada, just as oil-rich Texas has in the United States, but apparently felt moved to clarify that it’s strictly a business decision. With solar resources second only to Saskatchewan’s, “that’s not because of an intrinsic love for renewables,” he said. “It’s simply that we have the best resource in terms of what we call capacity factor—so the frequency with which the wind blows here is high, which makes the unit cost low.”

CBC lists several multi-million-dollar renewables projects now getting off the ground in Alberta, including a 254-hectare solar farm west of Edmonton International Airport and a C$750-million, 1.5-million-panel solar project in Vulcan County, described by Greengate Power CEO Dan Balaban as “by far the largest in Canada”. Balaban told CBC there should be room for all different energy forms in Alberta.

“I think we should be developing our oil and gas resources and our renewable energy resources,” he said. “We have a phenomenal opportunity in this province if we can all work together.”