Algonquin Power & Utilities Corp.’s (APUC) 23 MW Morse wind farm, which achieved commercial operation in December 2015, is the latest wind farm in Sasksatchewan to produce power.
The C$81 million wind farm, which APUC purchased from Kineticor Renewables Inc., possesses many attractive attributes, according to a spokesperson from Oakville, Ontario-based APUC, an independent power producer (IPP) with nearly 1 GW of wind holdings, ranging in size from 16.5 MW to 200 MW. The location’s strong wind resource and uncomplicated terrain were key factors in the siting decision. Additionally, good access to transmission also weighed heavily in the decision, as the project connects to a recently constructed 138 kV substation owned by SaskPower, the government-owned utility.[adright zone=’190′]
Ten Siemens direct-drive SWT 2.3 MW 113 turbines, comprising 55-meter blades, are perched on 79.5-meter towers throughout the site’s 1,120 acres. The project is expected to generate 104 GWh of energy per year. The manufacturer also landed a 10-year service and maintenance agreement, and Signal Energy provided construction services at the site. According to APUC, the only notable aspect of construction was the fact that the wind turbines were delivered and erected during the winter months. However, at one point, a period of uncharacteristic warm weather hampered some construction activities, notes APUC. Nonetheless, the construction of the wind project was uneventful.
Another notable aspect of the wind farm is the nature of its long-term power contract with SaskPower. The utility awarded Morse a power purchase agreement (PPA) in May 2010 under its Green Options Partners Program (GOPP). Upon SaskPower’s approval and execution of the PPA, Kineticor assigned the PPA to Algonquin Power Co., APUC’s renewable energy subsidiary. In a subsequent GOPP lottery, Algonquin secured another 5 MW PPA, which was awarded in June 2011. According to SaskPower, Morse will earn C$104.02/MWh for the first full year of operations, with an annual escalation provision of 2% over its 20-year term.
According to an APUC spokesperson, the IPP plans to explore “all options” across the province for additional wind development opportunities. APUC did clarify one thing, however: “At this time, we have no plans to add on to the Morse wind facility.”
At 23 MW, Morse is among the smallest in APUC’s portfolio. And its nameplate brings Saskatchewan’s total installed wind capacity to 221 MW, according to the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA). Nonetheless, the smallish Morse wind farm exemplifies the growing importance of IPPs in Saskatchewan and how future wind projects will get built.
Building cost-competitive projects
The Morse wind farm, along with projects in Saskatchewan’s development pipeline, will benefit from great timing, seeing as the province is now prioritizing renewable energy, such as wind. (For more on the provincial wind market, see “Canada’s Westward Wind Movement Needs Saskatchewan To Take Hold” on page 22.)
Looking at wind power specifically, SaskPower’s target calls for 30% of its generating capacity to come from wind power by 2030, which will add approximately 1,600 MW of installed capacity above and beyond that which has already been contracted and/or constructed.
Saskatchewan planned wind expansion as part of a broader strategy that will see renewable energy sources make up 50% of generating capacity within 15 years. This is double the current levels and represents a major shift for the province, notes CanWEA. It is expected that the entire 1,600 MW of new wind forecasted by SaskPower to be built by 2030 will be sourced through PPAs with IPPs – therefore, a huge opportunity for wind developers such as APUC.
What’s more, explains Evan Wilson, CanWEA’s regional director for the Prairies, is that the local municipalities will benefit from economic development opportunities from project construction. And the province will benefit from having projects that are “economical,” Wilson says.
“The people of Saskatchewan can expect competitive prices because the IPPs are sharpening their pencils with these projects,” he says, adding that IPP-led projects will be cost-competitive because the developers are on the ground and they know the ins and outs of the projects.
“They know the area and its costs and risks.”
Wilson expects the next five procurements will each total 200 MW for wind farms to be built in the 2020-2025 time frame. “Our hope is that the IPPs build all of the wind farms,” he says.
And SaskPower has already laid out a tentative schedule for future procurement, planning nine solicitations totaling 1,700 MW dating out to 2030. This is expected to begin with a request for proposals (RFP) for up to 200 MW of wind energy expected later this year. According to CanWEA, the winning projects will be offered under 25-year power purchase agreements by the end of the year and are expected to come online by April 2020.