Opportunity, awareness, readiness, and innovation were the leading themes that emerged from a report released today about energy diversification in Southeast Alberta. The report was commissioned by the Economic Development Alliance of Southeast Alberta, with funding from Alberta Labour, and in partnership with Medicine Hat College, to better understand the impact large-scale solar and wind initiatives could have on the region.
“Alberta’s energy needs are increasing. Diversifying the province’s resources with solar and wind to supplement the energy we already receive from the fossil fuel industry will help ensure a stable energy economy in the future,” says Sandra Moore of Sandra Moore Consulting who was hired to conduct the study and prepare the report.
“As this report indicates, diversifying Alberta’ energy sources may also provide solar and wind resource rich regions like Southeast Alberta with new industries that create jobs and stimulate local economies.”
The provincial government’s commitment to increasing renewable energy means there is significant opportunity for development in the region. Of the 85 solar and wind projects proposed for Alberta at the end of 2016, 41% are planned for the southeast.
While the potential is here, developing solar and wind energy industries will not happen overnight. Based on estimates from Canadian Solar Industries Association (CanSIA) and Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA), over the next two decades these local projects could result in:
To capitalize on these opportunities, increasing awareness of renewable technologies and their impact is essential.
"Stakeholders believe we need to increase the energy literacy of the region. Greater awareness and understanding of the realities of solar and wind energy development could be used to help support communities make better informed decisions about future projects." explains Moore.
Training will also be critical in preparation for new energy development. While 35 large-scale solar and wind projects have been announced for Southeast Alberta, construction will not begin immediately. This gives the region, which stretches west from the provincial boundary to Bassano and south from Oyen to the US border, time to consult with industry and ensure trained workers are ready. Southeast Alberta is in a fortunate position as it already has a well-developed energy workforce from the oil and gas sector that has transferable skills for new renewable technologies. Educational institutions, career development professionals, and private job placement organizations will all play important roles in transitioning workers.
Finally, the report identified greater collaboration with diverse stakeholders as being the key to renewable energy innovation. One example of a project currently in development is the Community Renewable Energy Microgrid Demonstration Project (CREMDP), a partnership that has brought Medicine Hat College (MHC), BluEnergy Solar Wind Canada Inc., and the City of Medicine Hat together to construct a demonstration site at MHC for training and testing purposes. Companies will have the ability to use the microgrid to test how their technologies will interact with a mainstream grid. This innovative partnership could attract investors and clients from all over the world and showcase the region’s abundant renewable resources.
"A legacy opportunity exists for Southeast Alberta to emerge as a provincial and national leader in renewable energy research, development, and innovation- specifically in solar and wind,” says Moore. The main recommendation in this report is to create a renewable energy strategy. This is an important first step for our region to reach its full potential.”
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