Suncor approves $300-million wind farm project in southern Alberta

Calgary-based Suncor Energy Inc. has announced it will move forward with a $300-million wind power project in the County of Forty Mile, located in southeastern Alberta.

The project, dubbed the Forty Mile Wind Power Project, will be developed in two phases, according to the company.

Construction for the first phase will begin this year, and the completed project is expected to include 89 wind turbines for a total of 400 megawatts.

Steve Wikkerink, reeve of Forty Mile County, said tax revenue from the new wind turbines would help to offset taxation lost from oil and gas downturns.

“If we didn’t have these windmills on the horizon to give us a little bit of glimmer of hope to keep our budget at par, things would look pretty bleak,” he said. “I would think we would be seriously thinking about cutting some services, possibly some positions, because the money isn’t there.”

Wikkerink said Forty Mile County runs a $12-million budget annually, and has lost approximately $3-million in oil and gas revenues in the last three years.

“That was a pretty big hit for us,” he said. “The first year, when we get the taxation money coming back from the windmills, it’s probably won’t even offset what we’ve lost in oil and gas.

“But I think hopefully by year three, then we’re kind of ahead of the game and we’ll see a benefit in our taxation bucket.”

The first phase of the project received Alberta regulatory approval last spring. Twenty-five per cent of the costs are expected to be incurred this year, and the remainder in 2020 and 2021.

Suncor says its capital budget for 2020 will rise to a mid-point of $5.7 billion, up from this year’s $5.15 billion.

“Looking forward to 2020, we will continue to focus on value over volume, investing in high-return projects that are largely independent of pipeline constraints and commodity price volatility, to deliver on our $2-billion incremental free funds flow target by 2023,” said Suncor CEO Mark Little in a statement.

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