Alberta’s largest natural gas fuelled power plant plugs in
The Shepard Energy Centre is officially up and running and will add more than 800 megawatts of electricity to the provincial grid.
The facility is the largest natural gas fuelled power plant in the province and became operational in March of this year.
Dignitaries and city officials were at the plant at 9500 100 Street SE on Tuesday for the Grand Opening of the facility.
Mayor Naheed Nenshi says the $1.4 B power centre is likely the biggest, single infrastructure project in Calgary’s history.
“Fundamentally, all of Calgary’s power consumption is now generated close to home, in a way that is clean, that is green and that is efficient. It’s a real bet on the future that the City of Calgary and the citizens of Calgary, as the shareholders of ENMAX, have made, but it’s absolutely an investment, that needed to be made and one that will accelerate us away from coal-based power generation in this province,” said the Mayor.
The plant will produce about 50 percent fewer GHG emissions per megawatt hour than a conventional coal plant and officials say it is an extremely efficient, state-of the art facility.
“This plant is an extraordinary user of water. It uses a lot of water through evaporation because of course as the steam is cooled, water can evaporate. That said, one of the greatest things about this plant is, there’s two really interesting aspects to make the plant more efficient. One is that we have a relationship with the City of Calgary’s Bonnybrook Wastewater Treatment Plant, which brings us about 14 million litres of water a day, of treated water, of water from the Bonnybrook Treatment Plant so it’s a very efficient way of using that water and the second is that we also use the waste heat that is generated by the big turbines to power smaller turbines to continue to produce even more electricity,” said Nenshi.
“This plant is really an important plant because one of the things that it provides us is it provides us the ability to have electricity 24 hours a day, no matter what the conditions are and we all depend on electricity, 24 hours a day for our lives, so one of the things that this plant does is it matches up very well with what we call intermittent supply, things like wind and solar as it becomes more available here in Alberta because as we know the sun doesn’t always shine, the wind doesn’t always blow but this plant can run reliably and affordably 24 hours a day,” said Gianna Manes, ENMAX President & CEO.
The plant supplies enough power for about half the needs of the entire city and officials say it has already had an effect on power prices.
“We’ve brought on about seven percent additional electricity supply to the Alberta market when we brought this plant online so as a result of that, power prices are lower than they’ve been in about 15 years because of the additional supply,” said Manes.
Capital Power joined the partnership as a co-investor with ENMAX in 2012 once the project was already developed and well underway.
Brian Vaasjo, Capital’s President & CEO, says about 900 megawatts of coal generation power plants will need to be replaced in the coming years and that plants like the Shepard Energy Centre will provide a dependable source of power for years.
“Well the outlook for natural gas is that there will be a very long term, relatively low cost supply but natural gas will always be needed as a reliable, dependable source of power in the province. It will essentially be replacing coal over time as a cleaner and more efficient fuel and it will be necessary, it will be needed because wind isn’t always blowing and the sun isn’t always shining, you need natural gas to backstop the system.”
Officials say the cost of electricity generated by the plant is affected by the price of natural gas but they are confident that there is an adequate supply of natural gas in North America to keep costs in check.
“One of the things we have in North America, including Canada, is that we have now, with new technology, a significant amount of abundant, low-cost natural gas that’s available to us so plants like this, we expect to be able to be low-cost generators because of that abundant supply of natural gas for years if not decades to come,” said Manes.
“What has happened is there is a lot more natural gas in the market and there’s been basically a flattening of demand across North America so the demand for new natural gas generation isn’t nearly what is was. The other thing that is happening is there’s a tremendous amount of renewables being built throughout North America which is essentially displacing what otherwise would have been natural gas billed,” said Vaasjo.
Vaasjo says Capital and ENMAX are also working on another natural gas powered facility west of Edmonton, which will be 200 megawatts larger than the Shepard Centre.
The northern facility will be the largest natural gas fuelled facility of its kind in Canada and Vaasjo says it will be completed sometime between 2019 and 2020 depending on demand.