Canada's largest oil and gas company is looking beyond conventional production and the Athabasca oil sands and moving into the renewable energy field. Suncor Energy Products of Calgary recently received regulatory approval from the Alberta Utilities Commission to proceed with the development of its Wintering Hills wind power project. The proposed 88-MW installation (55 1.6-MW turbines) is located 126 km northeast of Calgary and 21 km southeast of Drumheller.
At peak operation, the Wintering Hills project is expected to generate enough clean electricity to power approximately 35,000 Alberta homes, displacing the equivalent of approximately 200,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year.
Suncor already has four wind power projects onstream. It commissioned the 11-MW SunBridge facility at Gull Lake, SK, in 2002. Two years later, it turned on the 30-MW Magrath, AB, turbines. In 2006, the 30-MW Chin Chute facility in Taber, AB, became a reality. And Suncor's largest wind farm, the 76-NW Ripley facility, in Ripley, ON, came onstream in 2007. The company says its long term goal is to develop a new wind power facility every 12 to 18 months.
I applaud Suncor's strategy for several reasons. One, due to environmental considerations, the use of hydrocarbons to generate electricity will be limited in the future. Two, the world's oil reserves are finite. When it is gone, it is gone. Three, by supplying clean wind power, Suncor will reduce its total carbon footprint and that of consumers. Four, while wind turbines have their detractors, they are perhaps the most economical form of green power. And five, harnessing the wind does not create problematic tailings or multi-million-gallon oil spills.
Suddenly, wind power sounds like an ideal solution to Canada's energy needs. If it is so good, then maybe there is a modern alchemist out there who will be trying to create gold out of wind. More power to him (or her).