The end of an era: Cowley Ridge is decommissioned

Mar 14, 2016

Here’s how we get a 2,000 pound wind blade down 75 feet (approximately 24.5 meters). So far we have disassembled 17 turbines

First and oldest

The first and oldest commercial wind facility in Canada — Cowley Ridge, which began operating in 1993 — has reached the end of its operating life. An innovative leap back when the Pincher Creek area was a swath of windy, empty fields, Cowley Ridge became the centre one of the most prominent wind-generating regions in Canada.

“It was a unique experience working on the first wind farm in Canada. Back then it seemed like you were up so high, different from other types of work,” says Chris Ford, one of the first technicians to work on the site and now lead operator in the TransAlta Wind Control Centre. “On a great day there was nothing like it.”

Technicians and other staff who have worked on the site over the years describe the decommissioning as “bittersweet”. There is a lot of pride for their accomplishments and the realization that the technology has reached end of life.

Innovating to maintain

Acquired from pioneer wind developer Canadian Hydro in 2009, Cowley Ridge generates 16 megawatts of renewable energy from 57 turbines that have surpassed their 20 year design lifespan. The wind team has worked very hard to maintain these turbines, being innovative in the sourcing and repairing of parts that could no longer be ordered or were obsolete.

“Planning for the end of life of a wind site is a fairly new process,” says Stephen Young, wind and solar operations manager. “The local Pincher Creek team has done an amazing job of getting the maximum life from the site and helping plan for transition. We have an incredible and talented group of technicians, administrators and leaders here that take great pride in what they do”.

Next steps

TransAlta has consulted with landowners and they are in agreement that the facility has met the end of its life. Cowley Ridge’s retirement will be handled in two phases. Decommissioning is planned to take place from April-June 2016, followed by site reclamation. We are working with regulators, government and key stakeholders throughout these phases.

“The wind has to be below 25 kilometers an hour for us to proceed with the disassembly of the turbines. Once dissembled, the bulk of the turbine can be recycled. We separate the metal from the non-recyclables and we are anticipating we can recycle in excess of a million pounds of metal,” says Wayne Oliver, supervisor of the site.

“We’re very interested in the possibility of repowering the site, once decommissioning is complete. The economics of repowering depends on the province’s long-term plans for adding renewables to the electrical grid.”

We are currently planning for expansion of renewables, including wind, in Alberta as part of our transition to clean power by 2030.

“We are anticipating we can recycle in excess of a million pounds of metal during the decommissioning.”
Wayne Oliver, supervisor of the site.

UPDATEApril 7, 2016
See the latest photos of the decomissioning and find out exactly how much we are recycling!