Alberta approves 78-MW wind project

The Alberta Utilities Commission has approved the 78-MW Hand Hills Wind Power Plant being developed by Joss Wind Power Inc.

The Aug. 31 decision clears the way for construction to start in the building season in 2013. A spokesperson for Joss Wind said the merchant power plant is expected to complete construction and become operational in 2014. An interconnection agreement is proceeding on a separate path and is expected to be completed next year.

Nexen Inc. filed an application with the AUC for a 54-turbine, 81-MW wind power plant and substation to be known as the Hand Hills Wind Power Project in September of 2009. In February 2012, Nexen sold the project to Joss Wind.

During the review process for both Nexen and Joss Wind, reconfigurations to overcome objections from adjoining landowners and a switch from GE to Siemens turbines led to the slight modification downward from 81 MW to 78 MW.

The plant will be subject to provisions of the Hydro and Electric Energy Act and the Alberta Utilities Commission Act. The Highland Substation will be built by Joss Wind in a location approximately 17 kilometers (km) southwest of Delia.

The plant is primarily on farmland and woods. A series of conditions have been established for the construction and continued operation of the facility.

These include efforts to minimize disturbance of native grassland during construction and operation of the project. Where disturbed, Joss Wind will reclaim native grasslands and restore associated wildlife habitat.

Joss Wind is required to perform a post-construction wildlife monitoring program acceptable to Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development’s Fish and Wildlife Division and the Canadian Wildlife Service.  A bird and bat mortality post-construction monitoring program is also a condition of approval and operation.

Within one year of connecting the power plant to the Alberta grid, post-construction comprehensive noise studies under representative operating conditions will be performed.

Construction of the power plant shall be completed by Dec. 31, 2014 under the decision.

The proposed transmission line will connect to the proposed Highland Substation. If approval is granted by the AUC, construction will commence April 2013 with a completion target of October 2013 for the facilities to be operational.