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Alberta stakes its claim as a solar energy power

Reading Time: 2 minutesVulcan County will soon be home to the country’s largest solar farm — with the world’s largest online retailer buying most of the power from the 465-MW facility.

The Travers solar farm, to be built eight kilometres southwest of Lomond, will occupy 3,300 acres of cropland. It will be built by Greengate Power Corporation, a privately held Calgary company that has built several large wind and solar installations, including a 300-MW wind farm about 50 kilometres north of Lethbridge and a 150-MW wind farm east of Stettler.

Retailing giant Amazon, which has pledged to be solely powered by renewables by 2025, has signed a deal to buy up to 400 MW of power from Travers Solar, which is being funded by Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners, a Danish investment firm with one of the world’s largest investment portfolios in renewable energy.

The project firmly puts Alberta on the renewable energy map, said Greengate CEO Dan Balaban.

“Travers Solar will significantly improve Alberta’s environmental performance, adding to Greengate’s proven track record of successfully developing renewable energy projects of scale in Canada that deliver strong investor returns,” Balaban said in a release. “Greengate is proud to play a key role in creating market-based solutions that enable the global energy transition to net zero.”

Expected to be completed next year, the Travers Solar project actually began in 2017 when Greengate undertook land and wildlife studies. An open house was held in Vulcan in 2019.

The installation will consist of 1.3 million solar panels, assembled in rows of modules. The ones being used in the Travers Solar project will be bifacial, which means both sides collect sunlight.

“Bifacial solar panels are the latest in solar technology and relatively new to Canada,” a spokesperson for Greengate said in an email. “The snow enhances the reflection of light captured by the back side of the panel hence producing more energy and heating the front side of the panel which helps to melt accumulated snow.”

While Travers Solar won’t crack the Top 10 list of the world installations, it will be in the top two dozen or so. Most on that list are in China, India or the Middle East (although a 30,000-acre, 10-gigawatt behemoth planned for Australia’s outback will be four times larger than the current record holder).

The project is also more evidence of how big corporations are driving the move to renewable energy.

“Amazon is now the largest corporate buyer of renewable energy in the world,” the company said in a release announcing its latest round of energy buys, with the Travers project being the largest.

The retailer now has 10 gigawatts of renewable electricity lined up from 85 “utility-scale” wind and solar projects around the world (along with 147 solar rooftops on facilities and stores).

That renewable energy buying spree “sends a signal that investing in green technologies is the right thing to do for the planet and citizens — as well as for the long-term success of businesses of all sizes across all industries everywhere,” Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos said in the release announcing its buy from Travers and 13 other projects in Finland, Spain, and the U.S.

A few days later, Amazon announced another major Alberta project — its first “robotics fulfilment centre” in the province. The robots will “support” 1,000 full-time and part-time employees in a new 5,600-square-metre warehouse in Parkland County west of Edmonton.

Read More: Alberta stakes its claim as a solar energy power

2021-07-19 15:20:21

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