The Alberta Utilities Commission on Feb. 4 granted a request from the TransAlta MidAmerican Partnership (TAMA Power) to delay the commission-imposed deadline by four years, until the end of 2022, to complete construction of the 856-MW, combined-cycle natural gas-fired project known as Sundance Unit 7.
This project would be located at the existing Sundance coal-fired power plant in the Lake Wabamun area. TAMA Power in November 2015 asked for the delay. The commission issued its approval to construct Sundance 7 in June 2015, with a construction completion date of Dec. 31, 2018. In this application, TAMA Power requested an extension to Dec. 31, 2022, stating that such time extension is required because of the current regulatory uncertainty and economic volatility in Alberta. That volatility is in large part due to a world decline in oil prices, which impact Alberta’s oil sands industry, a mainstay of its economy.
TAMA Power stated the time extension would not change the characteristics of the project and that it will remain committed to proper and compliant development and construction of the project.
The commission received statements of intent to participate in this delay proceeding from the Gunn Métis Local 55, and also from David, Ferne and Philip Cymbaluk (collectively, the Cymbaluks). The Gunn Métis submitted that it was concerned that an extension for completing Sundance 7, coupled with TransAlta Corp.’s recent filing with the Alberta Energy Regulator for an extension to operate and expand the nearby Highvale Coal Mine, will cause air quality to diminish. The Gunn Métis submitted that the air quality assessments undertaken for the Sundance 7 hearing do not support the current time extension application, and that new testing scenarios are required in order to have an accurate depiction of the impacts to air quality that will result from approving the extension. The Gunn Métis also expressed concern with the lack of notice and consultation, noting that its traditional knowledge is not incorporated into the time extension application, and expressed dissatisfaction with the completion of TAMA Power’s wetland mitigation measures.
On Jan. 28, the commission denied standing to the two parties. It stated that while both the Gunn Métis and the Cymbaluks satisified the legal portion of the standing test, they did not satisfy the factual portion of the test because they did not demonstrate that the time extension application had the potential for any new direct and adverse effects.
Said the Fweb. 4 order: “Given the considerations discussed above, the Commission finds the application to be in the public interest pursuant to Section 17 of the Alberta Utilities Commission Act and approves a time extension to December 31, 2022, for the completion of Sundance 7.”
Said the project website: “TransAlta Corporation and MidAmerican Energy Holdings Company joined forces to create TransAlta MidAmerican Partnership (‘TAMA Power’) in October 2012. TAMA Power is committed to building reliable, economical and environmentally responsible natural gas fuelled power generation facilities for Albertans.”
MidAmerican Energy Holdings, which is part of Berkshire Hathaway, also controls U.S. electric utilities like MidAmerican Energy and PacifiCorp.
The Unit 7 project will consist of two natural gas-fired combustion turbine generators, each rated at 345 megavolt-amperes (MVA), one steam turbine generator rated at 400 MVA and a standby diesel generator. This new facility is planned to have a gross nominal generation capability of 856 MW.