02 Jun 2023

Greek Company to Spearhead $1.7B Solar Energy Project in Alberta

02 Jun 2023  by   

Alberta is the 'leader in Canada' in terms of attracting investment in solar power, says Leif Sollid with the Alberta Electric System Operator. (Tom Steepe/CBC)

A Greek industrial and power company will spearhead a $1.7-billion project to build five solar energy plants scattered throughout central and southern Alberta, it announced Thursday.

Mytilineos Energy and Metals will acquire the portfolio from Westbridge Renewable Energy. Once complete, the plants would add 1.4 GW of solar capacity to the province's power grid, slightly more than Alberta's current solar generation capacity.

It's a hefty deal, but those in the industry say it's just one example of how quickly the province's renewable energy market is growing.

"Alberta is far and away the leader in Canada in attracting renewable energy projects," said Leif Sollid, communications manager for the Alberta Electric System Operator.

He pointed to a recent report from the Canadian Renewable Energy Association, which said 98 per cent of growth in wind and solar last year happened in Western Canada. The bulk of that was in Alberta.

As the province moves away from coal power and toward renewable generation, its sunny skies and deregulated electricity market make it a tempting place for companies to set up shop.

"We are quite unique in Canada in both respects," he said.

5 power plants planned

In a release, Mytilineos said the transaction is its first in North America.

It chose Canada because of its recently announced clean investment tax credits, and Alberta in part because of its "streamlined permitting process" and stated goal of achieving 30 per cent electricity production from renewables by 2030.

"Moreover, the selection of Alberta has been the obvious choice for Mytilineos, as the area has some of the highest irradiation in Canada, making it an ideal location for the development of solar projects in the country," the company said in its release.

Its Alberta solar power plants will include:

Georgetown, in Vulcan County.

Sunnynook, in Special Area No. 2.

Dolcy, in the Municipal District of Wainwright.

Eastervale, in the Municipal District of Provost.

Red Willow, in Stettler County No. 6.

The Georgetown and Sunnynook plants are the most advanced, the company said, and are expected to reach "ready to build" status by the end of the year. The others are expected to hit that mark by mid-2024.

The company isn't alone in its ambitions.

There are 12.6 GW worth of solar projects in Alberta that are either under construction, have received approval by the Alberta Utilities Commission or have been announced by project proponents. Sollid noted not all of them will necessarily be built.

Sara Hastings-Simon, with the University of Calgary's department of geoscience and school of public policy, says the amount of solar capacity expected to come online should be good news for customers.

During the hot summer months, when there's plenty of sun available and demand for power is high, having more solar capacity will likely help bring prices down.

"It basically is going to be bumping more expensive [power] generation out of the generation stack for those times," she said.

Mytilineos says its plants will generate 2.1 terawatt-hours (TWh) per year of renewable energy, enough to power 200,000 Canadian homes for a year.

The company says the deal is subject to certain conditions, including regulatory approval by the Alberta Utilities Commission.

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