Here comes the sun: Alberta plans to establish first solar farms
Published on: October 7, 2016 | Last Updated: October 7, 2016 6:41 AM MDT
The Alberta government is aiming to support the province’s first solar farm and is issuing a Request for Information (RFI) to provide advice on the potential cost and best approach for procuring solar power. Video by Greg Southam
The province wants Alberta to be the birthplace of solar farms in Western Canada, with half the government’s electricity needs powered by the sun.
Government facilities have been powered by renewable energy since 2009. Currently, three companies hold contracts to supply that power generated by the wind.
Two of the contracts constitute 55 per cent of that supply. When they expire at the end of 2018, the government wants to sign up for solar.
The switch will come at the cost of wind farms, but the government said its goal to have 30 per cent of electricity on Alberta’s power grid come from renewables by 2030 will provide opportunities for those farms to expand their businesses.
Environment Minister Shannon Phillips said Thursday her government wants to move to solar to help encourage growth in green technologies and further diversify Alberta’s power grid, so it’s reaching out to solar companies to ask how they would approach a large-scale project to supply power to government and whether it can be done by 2018.
Canadian Solar Industries Association president John Gorman said the industry’s appetite to break into the Alberta market is “enormous,” because the province sits on the best solar resources in Canada, with 20 per cent more sun than Ontario.
A consistent criticism of solar is its cost; the large upfront investment takes years to recoup and is often viewed as economically unfeasible.
But that cost has plummeted over the past decade, and Phillips said playing the card that solar is expensive card is “simply not consistent with reality.”
Gorman said the price of solar modules has dropped 82 per cent in six years.
Solar “is the fastest growing electricity system in the world,” he said Thursday, because it’s clean and effective.
The International Energy Agency, made up of 29 member countries including Canada, says the lion’s share of that growth has been in China, as solar panel manufacturing shifts from Europe to Asia.
The agency is linked to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. Its figures put total global solar capacity at more than 150 gigawatts in early 2014, up from 23 GW in 2009. It grew again to more than 220 GW in 2015, capable of powering millions of homes.
The provincial government estimated Alberta’s total energy usage was 54,877 GW last year.
Phillips said her government wants to “test the often-asserted statement that solar is coming down in price, and it is competitive with wind.”
Wildrose electricity and renewables critic Don MacIntyre is confident that dropping prices and plentiful sunshine mean large-scale solar projects could work in Alberta, but is wary of the government’s plan.
The MLA said Thursday he’s worried the NDP’s switch to solar will become “another corporate welfare scheme” that artificially props up an unsustainable industry.
Taking advantage of the Albertan sun is a great idea, MacIntyre said, “but I want to see (solar companies) go head-to-head in an open competition, and may the best technologies win.”
“We have a great solar resource here and I want to see it happen, but … I’m not willing to support any industry on the back of taxpayers,” he said.
We're taking advantage of this abundant resource by providing opportunities for the emerging solar industry and creating Alberta's first utility-scale solar jobs.
Learn more at http://alberta.ca/release.cfm…
YourAlberta (Government of Alberta)Like Page
We're seeking proposals to build Alberta's first large-scale solar farm to help power government buildings and further diversify our electricity sector.
Government buildings have been powered 100% by renewable energy, including wind power, since 2009. Sunny Alberta has some of the best solar resources in Canada. We're taking advantage of this abundant resource by providing opportunities for the emerging solar industry and creating Alberta's first utility-scale solar jobs.
Learn more at http://alberta.ca/release.cfm…
Dean Cunningham What about geothermal
Enrique Massot Go Alberta! We can do it!
Julie Ali What a waste of tax payer dollars. At least this will all be done with in three more years.Like · Reply · Just now