SWIFT CURRENT COMMUNITY RENEWABLES
7 November 2016: Project on hold
After we had spent more than four years working on this initiative and after SaskPower had delayed and prevaricated for more than two years over our connection application; SaskPower finally confirmed - in late October - they will not consider this project at the present time. Instead they told us to wait until some time next year when they may (or may not) announce a competitive tender for community projects. This is obviously very disappointing but not surprising and confirms our experience since 2012: SaskPower is not particularly interested in non-hydro renewables and certainly not in community-based wind/solar initiatives.
So we have nothing to announce except that, through no fault of our own, we are unable to proceed. The situation may change but, if it does, nothing is likely to happen for another year at least: so don't hold your breath.
In the meantime and since SaskPower is not prepared to give serious consideration to wind energy;
- we have flagged, to the Provincial Auditor, SaskPower's inconsistent approach to assessing new power generation projects
- we have asked the Provincial Auditor to review the finances of SaskPower's $1.5-billion Carbon Capture scheme
- we have requested a federal Environmental Assessment of SaskPower's proposed gas-fired power station in Swift Current. In so doing we maintain SaskPower has not given sufficient consideration to superior alternatives: specifically to wind energy.
28 July 2016: Press release regarding next steps
Our 11 July meeting attracted great media coverage and that substantially increased public awareness of this first-in-North-America community-owned wind and solar project. As a result we have been working with multiple entities over the last couple of weeks in order to ascertain the best way of moving forward. We continue discussions with local businesses, who will provide various construction and consulting services related to this project, as well as a number of Swift Current land-owners who are interested in participating.
Matters have been somewhat complicated by the 14 July announcement of the results of SaskPower's competitive tender to build a new gas-fired power station in the RM of Swift Current: SaskPower awarded itself the $700-million contract. This means that we, together with anyone else who wants to build new power generation in Saskatchewan, are now competing with the entity (SaskPower) which is also supposed to be the impartial assessor of new generation proposals. Nonetheless we continue with our SaskPower discussions: they have now been ongoing for more than 4 years.
Given the awesome international and national environment for developing wind and solar power, the great economics and Saskatchewan's world-class resource of both, we are not surprised that matters continue to move forward and we remain optimistic in the eventual success of this unique initiative. Following our 11 July event we do not yet have specific news to report which would justify a second public meeting at this time: we will however advise when that changes.
Details in this press release which we sent out today.
If you'd like to see some of the media coverage to date: try our press page.
11 July 2016: Public Meeting
Record rainfall across Southern Saskatchewan did not dampen spirits at a well attended public meeting. After a 30 minute presentation of the concept by SaskWind & MiEnergy, everyone got a chance to ask questions. It was clear from those questions that people present were well informed and 'get it' re the $100-million benefit of community ownership. People were also aware of the advantages, for the local economy, if Swift Current chooses to get behind this project since it represents the beginning of a wave of $5-billion of investment, over the next 15 years, which will be required to meet SaskPower's ambitious renewable energy targets.
The full SaskWind/MiEnergy Powerpoint presentation can be downloaded here
Next steps: SaskWind & MiEnergy stand ready to provide all technical assistance but are now looking for the community of Swift Current to demonstrate their support for this initiative. This support will be critical in order to move ahead with the next step in the project which is to secure an agreement from SaskPower that they will purchase the electricity generated by the project.
Specifically SaskWind and MiEnergy are looking for champions from within the community - landowners who might be interested in hosting the wind turbines and solar panels on their land as well as individuals who would be prepared to invest their time and energy. There will be a meeting in the next two or three weeks to discuss next steps: we'll announce details shortly.
The entire event was live-streamed and is available on our facebook page.
We will also post our PowerPoint presentation here shortly.
21 June 2016
Public meeting notification: 11 July 2016
We first proposed this project to the RM of Swift Current in the summer of 2014. In the two years since we have had numerous meetings with them. They are interested in the economic opportunities and, in particular, the unique aspect of the community-ownership structure we are proposing.
We have been in discussions with SaskPower over the last 4 years about the economic and social advantages of pursuing a community-owned large-scale renewable energy project. For the last 2 years we have been talking with them about this Swift Current project in particular.
Many out-of-province wind and solar developers are now active in the the RM of Swift Current (and elsewhere in the Province) in anticipation of a call for proposals from SaskPower later this year. Given this activity, that the RM of Swift Current was starting to field questions from the public, the substantial amount of time which has already elapsed since this project was first proposed and the lack of any indication from SaskPower as to how it would like to proceed; the RM felt we should have a public meeting to share details.
That meeting will take place Monday 11 July in Swift Current. Over 25 minutes we will present the project within the framework of the rapid national and global expansion of both the wind and solar industries. We will discuss the economic advantages of this project for Swift Current with a focus on the particular economic advantages associated with community ownership. We will outline the project permitting and construction time-frame through to commissioning which, if all goes to plan, will be in October 2019. We will conclude by outlining next steps through the summer and will then look forward to hearing what people have to say about this opportunity.
All are welcome!
20 June 2016
Swift Current Community Wind and Solar
This $90-million wind and solar project will be the first megawatt-scale 100% community-owned wind and solar project in North America. It will take advantage of Swift Current's best-in-Canada wind and solar resource all while supporting SaskPower's bold new 2030 renewable energy targets.
The community-owned aspect means the project has significant economic advantages - principal amongst which: it will retain an additional $100-million in the local economy over its 30-year lifetime.
SaskPower's 2030 renewable targets and the economic opportunity. In November last year SaskPower announced its intention to double the installed capacity of renewable energy by 2030. At that time renewables will be generating approximately half of Saskatchewan's electricity. This expansion will require $5-billion of new investment and consequently represents an enormous economic opportunity for our Province.
That opportunity could create entire new businesses in civil, mechanical and electrical engineering, skilled trades, finance, legal, environmental consulting etc. and, if we get the policy right, it could create 20,000+ new jobs. Swift Current, given its central location, is ideally placed to benefit from this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
By proceeding with this wind and solar project Swift Current will establish itself as an early leader in the sector. But more than that - the unique community-owned nature means that substantial economic benefits, which would otherwise be lost, will be retained within the Swift Current region.
The Project will consist of two parts: 25 megawatts of wind generation and 10 megawatts of solar photovoltaic panels. The total cost will be as much as $90-million although the final amount depends in large part on SaskPower charges for an electrical connection.
The wind portion will likely consists of 6 turbines although a final decision on turbine type and size has yet to be taken. The turbines will be distributed across an area of about 2,000 acres however almost all of this land can continue in its current use: only about 70 acres would be physically occupied by the turbine foundations, access roads, electrical transformers and the like.
The solar component will have a total installed capacity of 10 megawatts consisting of 30,000 solar panels on ground-mounted racks across about 100 acres of land.
SaskWind will be responsible for the overall project management together with the wind installation while MiEnergy will take the lead on the solar installation.
If all proceeds according to plan the project will be operational in October 2019. It will produce enough electricity to meet the needs of about 12,000 average Swift Current households.
Location. We are currently looking at a number of potential sites in the RM and at the present time are favoring locations 10+ kilometres south of the City of Swift Current. Ultimately the final choice of location depends on what the citizens of Swift Current want and also where SaskPower says it is possible to connect to their electricity network.
Environmental. The Fish and Wildlife Branch of the Ministry of Environment has produced draft guidelines for siting wind projects in Saskatchewan. The Ministry has prepared the guidelines to "mitigate impacts on biodiversity and minimize public concerns over potential environmental impacts resulting from the establishment and operation of wind energy projects in Saskatchewan".
The draft guidelines should be finalised any day now and at that time will be posted to the Ministry's web site. In the interim the draft document is available here. We are liaising closely with the Ministry over this project and note the areas we are considering for this project are well outside the 'Avoidance Zones' proposed by the Ministry.
Community ownership and what it means. The idea of communities taking a lead on the development and ownership of renewable energy projects is extremely common in Europe - specifically in Germany and Denmark. In both of these countries more than half of onshore wind and solar energy is owned by individuals, farmers, municipalities and collectives. It is no coincidence that these two countries generate 22 percent and 52 percent respectively of their total annual electricity needs from wind and solar or that of the 5 largest wind turbine manufacturing companies in the world - one each is located in Denmark (Vestas) and Germany (Enercon).
The popularity of community ownership lies in the fact that it is all about local people benefiting from the development of a local resource. In the case of this project - local ownership means that an additional $100-million would be retained within the local economy over the 30 year life of the project.
Notwithstanding the popularity of community ownership in Europe - this Swift Current project will be the first 100 percent community-owned wind and solar project of this scale in North America. That makes it a particularly exciting opportunity for the Swift Current region.