Alberta makes good on plan to harness wind power

“We have over 750 wind turbines. It’s quite amazing for the province,” says wind energy community liaison, Kris Hodgson. “We have about 1,100 megawatts of wind energy being produced which is quite substantial. (It) powers about 600,000 homes and the majority of all the wind farms are down here in the south.”

The province is looking to harness as much of that energy as possible, which is why a new transmission line is under construction.

“To take advantage of all that new green power, we want to be able to bring it up into the grid,” said AltaLink’s manager of external Communications, Peter Brodsky. “This new 240kV line will do that.”

The new line shadows the older, smaller line. It stretches from High River, south along Highway 2 to a substation southwest of Fort Macleod. It consists of 343 towers and spans 123km. The towers themselves are 60m tall and up to 20,000 kilos. Because of their size, they need to be transported and assembled in parts by specialized helicopters. It is a process that has evolved over the years and is now more efficient and environmentally friendly.

“The use of helicopters has increased quite a bit in our business,” says Brodsky. “It’s now the standard way for us to assemble lines like this because we want to minimize the amount of environmental impact of putting up a line like this.”

The helicopter construction sparked interest among residents of Claresholm.

“Oh, it is so fascinating,” says resident Lis Carlson. “I watched them when I used to go to Lethbridge and come back and watched them drop them in and drop the lines on as I’d go by.”

The line is expected to be complete and running by next summer, meaning more electricity and more room for growth.

“A lot of people want to bring their wind farms to reality, but the whole problem is our electricity infrastructure isn’t robust enough to carry all that wind energy,” said Hodgson. “So this will hopefully allow for more projects to come online.”

Lethbridge will be experiencing helicopter construction firsthand in the coming weeks. AltaLink will be replacing a number of aging transmission lines running parallel to 30 Ave N, beside the Peenaquim dog run. The operation runs from Sept.22-Oct.31, with a test flight scheduled for Sept.16.