A $350-million wind farm project southwest of Oyen, Alta. has filled motel rooms, campgrounds and spare bedrooms around the small farm community, giving a boost to the local economy.
The Lanfine project by Pattern Energy is near its peak construction phase, with approximately 250 contractors currently working in the area.
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“I think it’s been great for the community,” said Clint Olsen.
Olsen grew up and worked in the area before moving away for a few years, but now he’s back and has a way to stay.
He now works for Pattern Energy as its local facility manager.
He says the two main economic engines for the area – agriculture and oil – have changed over the years.
Jobs dried up, margins got tighter and many families moved away.
“When I graduated high school, most – I shouldn’t say most but quite a few people – had jobs in the oilfield checking wells or whatever and a lot of those jobs are now gone,” Olsen said.
The project comes as the town is bouncing back from the cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline project in 2021
“Once XL left us, it made a big void in the economy and it dropped right off as soon as they shut the line down,” said Doug Dingman, owner of T&D Fresh Foods in Oyen.
Dingman says now every room, campsite and motel is fully booked.
“They have to cook (for) themselves. They don’t have a cook camp here, so they’re actually buying lots of groceries, so they’ve made a nice impact onto our business,” he said.
Nearly $2 billion in renewable wind power projects are currently being built in southern and eastern Alberta, with nearly $500 million more in the proposal stage.
One reason for the boom is the new-found profitability.
The cost of building a wind power project is roughly $30 per megawatt hour of energy production.
So far in 2022, wholesale electricity rates are $130.70 per megawatt hour.
It’s a profit margin that rivals conventional oil production during a boom.
Pattern Energy’s senior project manager, Jeff Labbett, says renewables have come a long way during his decade in the industry.
“In addition to helping meet the peak demands of the grid, it’s also providing that consistent supply of renewable energy throughout the day that gets us off coal and other power sources,” Labbett said.
“It’s become the norm and that’s very exciting … wind turbines are a big part of the future of energy production in North America.”
By Bill Macfarlane
CTV News Calgary
Updated Oct. 13, 2022