Alberta led the way in new solar power installations in Canada last year, and one of the new additions was built by a joint venture between Vancouver’s Concord Pacific through its renewable energy subsidiary, Concord Green Energy, and the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN).
Many British Columbians will be familiar with Concord Pacific as a developer and builder of residential high-rises. But the company is also a renewable energy developer, through its energy subsidiary, Concord Green Energy.
The company today announced the commissioning of three new solar farms in Alberta, in partnership with the ACFN, through the ACFN-Concord Solar Partnership.
The new solar farms have a total nameplate capacity of 67 megawatts (MW) -- equivalent to the power used by about 12,500 homes -- and were built at a capital cost of $145 million. The ACFN invested $32 million in equity in the project.
According to Concord Pacific, 50 per cent of the labour for the project came from the Blood Tribe in Southern Alberta, and involved a number of indigenous businesses as subcontractors.
Alberta is aiming to phase out all of its coal fired power generation before 2030, and renewables are playing a role in that switch.
According to the Canadian Renewable Energy Association (CanREA), wind and solar installations in Canada grew by 10 per cent in 2022, with Alberta leading the way. A total of 1.8 gigawatts of new wind or solar installations were built in 2022.
Alberta accounted for almost all the new solar power additions in 2022: 759 MW out of a nation-wide total of 771 MW.
“Clean renewable electricity is now the least-cost option for Alberta consumers,” said Jason Schulz, executive director of strategic advisory services for the Athabasca Chipewyan Band.
“It also helps Alberta meet its climate change goals and is a critical part of ACFN’s business diversification strategy that we will continue to develop. With the completion of this monumental solar project in Alberta and these recent talks with Concord Pacific about renewables, we feel energized for the future.”
Unlike B.C., which has a regulated electricity system, Alberta is an unregulated market.
Power producers there don’t receive power purchase agreements like they do in B.C. from BC Hydro. Independent power producers therefore shoulder more risk to build new power generating facilities and recover their investment through power sales on an open market.
“The power producers are taking a little bit more risk,” Concord Pacific CEO Terry Hui told BIV News. “It’s a little more risky up front and requires a little more equity.”
However, because Alberta will need a lot more power to replace coal power, there are significant opportunities for independent power producers there.
Concord Green Energy is also looking to develop a 350-MW run-of-river project, called the Amisk Hydroelectric Project, on the Peace River near Dunvegan, Alberta. Hui said First Nations are proving to be good partners for developing clean energy projects.
“In Alberta there’s a lot of growth in the First Nations capacity now,” Hui said. “And they’ll play an important role in our future plans."