Skip to main content

Tag: TransAlta

Overhead view of Montem Resources plan for Tent Mountain development near Crowsnest Pass.

Tent Mountain coal mine ‘pivots’ to renewable energy

Faced with a changing environmental landscape, a Crowsnest Pass mining operation is looking at shifting gears.

Australian-based Montem Resources, which operated the Tent Mountain open-pit mine, 16 kilometres west of Coleman, is changing its focus and name as it moves into the renewable energy field.

In a presentation to Crowsnest Pass council Sept. 12, president Peter Doyle announced that Montem will now be known as Evolve Power Group and has partnered with TransAlta in the new venture.

“The CEO of TransAlta and I meet regularly. I have no doubt in vouching for their commitment to this project,” said Doyle to council.

“I know you see the significance of this. It’s a billion-dollar investment,” he added.

TransAlta, Doyle continued, brings experience, already operating a hydro-generating plant near Drayton Valley.

The move, though, is a new direction for Montem, which has said it’s in the process of exiting its coal business and ceased all coal development activities.

“Unfortunately, we had to make a pivot, but we’re very proud that we’re able to make the change,” Doyle continued.

 

Ad for Sara Hawthorn, Pincher Creek and Crowsnest Pass realtor

 

The new operation will have both an upper and lower reservoir and feature pumped-storage hydroelectric storage or PHES.

According to the PowerPoint presentation, PHES is a closed-loop system of non-fish-bearing water that cycles between the two reservoirs.

While the new Tent Mountain proposal will still need to go through the proper regulatory approval and community engagement, Doyle is confident of its value, not only to Alberta’s power grid, but to the area, as well.

“At its peak during construction, it will provide jobs for close to 200 people, and 30 permanent positions.”

Once built, the project is expected to generate power for a period of 80-plus years to some 400,000 Alberta homes and to eliminate up to 400,000 tonnes of CO2 per year into the environment.

And, while not formally in place, Evolve is working toward another partnership with the Blackfoot Confederacy, which includes the Piikani and Siksika nations, of at least a 10 per cent ownership stake.

If approved, construction would begin in 2026 and be completed sometime in 2028.

Wayne Oliver, man with short grey hair and glasses wearing a blue vest, points to a Riplinger project map and speaks to Rick and Blanche Lemire.

Town councillor under fire over TransAlta info session

A Pincher Creek councillor who works for an electricity wholesaler is the subject of a complaint that he was in a conflict of interest when he participated in a recent public information session hosted by his employer. 

Wayne Oliver, now in his second term on town council, said he’s worked for TransAlta Corp. for 18 years. As the company’s Wind Operations Supervisor for Western Canada, Oliver said he looks after 13 wind farms and one battery storage site across southern Alberta. 

He attended TransAlta’s Feb. 17 information session at Hill Spring Community Centre to answer questions about a wind farm TransAlta hopes to build in Cardston County as part of its proposed Riplinger renewable energy project, Oliver told Shootin’ the Breeze on Feb. 28.

“It seems to me that this is a conflict of interest” according to council’s code of conduct (Bylaw 1622-18), the complainant stated in a letter attached to council’s Feb. 27 agenda.

 

Ad for Dragons Heart Quilt Shop in Pincher Creek

 

The complainant, whose name is redacted from the letter, wrote that the Riplinger project would feed into a 45-kilometre transmission line through the Municipal District of Pincher Creek, which borders Cardston County. 

“I believe the Town of Pincher Creek has an inherent relationship to the proposed project,” the letter states, adding that Oliver’s presence at the Hill Spring session “could be seen as potentially using one’s councillor influence for the financial gain or benefits to their associated business/employer,” regardless of whether he attended as a town councillor or a company employee. 

“I thought it was just another day at TransAlta,” Oliver told the Breeze. 

“I don’t think I was in a conflict of interest,” he said, noting that the info session was no different than the dozen other public meetings he’s attended for other TransAlta projects in Alberta and Saskatchewan. 

 

 

His professional involvement with Riplinger would happen after the project is built, assuming that it’s approved by the Alberta Utilities Commission, which regulates the province’s utility sector. 

“Sometimes, I conduct my life and forget that people view me as a town councillor. I’m now aware of this potential perception and I’ll manage my affairs with that in mind,” he said. 

Oliver recused himself when council addressed the letter at chambers. 

“From my point of view, we really have no jurisdiction [over Riplinger] unless we become an intervener somehow: We’re not really involved,” Mayor Don Anderberg said. 

 

 

TransAlta has not submitted an application to the AUC on behalf of Riplinger, nor has it put in for the necessary permitting for the transmission line, James Mottershead, spokesperson for TransAlta, told the Breeze on Feb. 17. 

A consultant retained by TransAlta said the transmission line would likely go through the MD, but qualified that it would be routed according to the Alberta Electric System Operator, the non-profit organization that oversees planning for the province’s electrical grid.  

Pincher Creek town council unanimously voted to conduct a review of its code of conduct.

“Council members must be vigilant to avoid any perception or actual activity which may be seen as a conflict of interest” and “must never use their influence as elected representatives for personal advantage,” the code states.

“Frankly, I get paid the same whether Riplinger gets built or not. So, there’s no financial gain for me,” Oliver said.

 

Ace of spades card on ad for Chase the Ace at the Pincher Creek Legion

 

Ad for Shadowbar Shepherds Training in Pincher Creek

 

Local Stories Obituaries Story Idea?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mined mountainside with greenery in foreground and blue water pond

‘Winds of change’ bring renewable energy project to Tent Mountain

Peter Doyle, CEO at Montem Resources Ltd., said the company plans to sell half of its stake in the Tent Mountain site to the Calgary-based electricity wholesaler TransAlta Corp. TransAlta will lead the development of a 320-megawatt pumped hydrogen energy storage facility on the mountain.

The Tent Mountain Renewable Energy Complex (TM-REX) will be powered by an off-site wind farm that will feed into a new transmission line, Blain van Melle, TransAlta’s vice-president, told Shootin’ the Breeze in a Feb. 24 video conference with Doyle. The project meanwhile envisions an off-site hydrolyzer that will generate “14,000 tonnes each year of clean, green hydrogen.

“This is the equivalent of displacing 50 million litres of diesel each year, or taking 2,000 heavy trucks off our highways,” Doyle says in a promotional video on Montem’s website. 

Doyle and van Melle declined to specify where the companies might build the wind farm or the hydrolyzer. 

With plans still in the distant offing, Doyle said Montem has been in talks with the Piikani Nation, which he said “has aspirations to build a significant wind farm.” 

 

Ad for Creekview Dental Hygiene clinic in Pincher Creek

 

“Anything that we do on [the wind farm] is most likely going to be in unison with either Piikaani by itself, or the entire Blackfoot confederacy,” he told the Breeze

Van Melle said it’s for the Alberta Electric System Operator, the non-profit company that manages Alberta’s electricity grid, to determine the transmission line’s exact specifications. 

Montem said in a Feb. 17 press release that the project would create about 200 construction jobs and about 30 permanent jobs after TM-REX comes online. 

Doyle said the Tent Mountain mine, unreclaimed since it was abandoned in 1983, had roughly enough capacity to produce one million tonnes of metallurgical coal every year for 13 years, whereas TM-REX will generate emissions-free energy for up to 80 years. 

Peter Loughheed’s Progressive Conservative government halted coal exploration along the eastern Rockies in 1976 because the slopes feed environmentally sensitive headwaters. 

 

Aerial view of the Cowley Lions Campground on the Castle River in southwestern Alberta

 

The United Conservatives under Premier Jason Kenney announced in the spring of 2020 that they would lift the ban, but quickly reversed course when the initiative provoked strong opposition. 

Doyle said Montem realized “the winds of change were blowing” in 2021, when Ottawa asked for an environmental assessment for the proposed reboot of the Tent Mountain coal mine. The Alberta Energy Regulator then rejected Benga Mines’ (another Australian coal company’s) application to reboot an open-pit mine on nearby Grassy Mountain, stating that the project wasn’t in the public interest.

At that point, Doyle said, “It became increasingly clear that there was too high a risk to continue with the [Tent Mountain] coal mine.” 

The mountain’s coal deposits will be “sterilized,” Doyle said, using an industry term that means the hydrocarbons will stay in-ground. 

Doyle and van Melle said Montem and TransAlta would continue to meet with Pass stakeholders moving forward. 

Doyle said he expects Montem’s shareholders will approve the TM-REX sale in late March or early April.

 

More Local Stories

 

 

Pig roast at wedding venue — the Cowley Lions Campground Stockade near Pincher Creek in southwestern Alberta.

 

 

 

 

Laurie Tritschler author information. Photo of red-haired man with moustache, beard and glasses, wearing a light blue shirt in a circle over a purple accent line with text details and connection links

Highway leading toward mountains with fields filled with wind turbines

Concerns raised over TransAlta’s Riplinger project

A proposed wind farm in Cardston County is facing opposition from a group of residents who say the project threatens the region’s sensitive environment and that their voices are being ignored as the project approaches the regulatory phase. 

The project, dubbed Riplinger by Calgary electricity wholesaler TransAlta, has meanwhile drawn the attention of Pincher Creek’s MD, where the company will likely seek to build a transmission line, according to an information package sent last December to county residents within 1.5 kilometres of the project’s tentative boundaries. 

The Riplinger farm would generate power from 46 wind turbines on 14,000 acres of private land roughly 30 kilometres southeast of Pincher Creek, the package states. James Mottershead, spokesman for TransAlta, later told Shootin’ the Breeze the project would involve 50 turbines. 

Mottershead said TransAlta “introduced” Riplinger to the MD in May 2022, though the company has not filed an application with the Alberta Utilities Commission, which has broad authority to approve utility projects. 

 

 

Many people who attended TransAlta’s public information session in Cardston County’s village of Hill Spring last Friday were asked to sign a petition circulated by Riplinger’s opponents. 

“This is the wrong place for a wind farm,” Bill Merry said as locals steadily filed into the village community centre.

Merry said he was frustrated that TransAlta “has done absolutely the bare minimum in communicating with the project’s stakeholders,” many of whom Merry said live beyond Riplinger’s 1.5-kilometre radius. 

“It’s like they’re trying to shove this under the rug,” he added. 

Angela Tabak, who lives in the nearby hamlet of Mountain View, said she’d been networking with residents within the project radius, who can intervene if they notify the AUC that they will be directly and adversely affected by Riplinger. 

Merry and Tabak said they hoped for a public hearing where TransAlta would be called to show its plans to protect migratory birds and other wildlife species, as well as the wetlands between the Waterton and Belly rivers. Fifty people had signed the petition roughly an hour after doors opened at the community centre. 

 

Indoor and outdoor view of wedding venue — the Cowley Lions Campground Stockade near Pincher Creek in southwestern Alberta.

 

Speaking to MD councillors at chambers on Feb. 14, Reeve Rick Lemire held up TransAlta’s information package, which outlines a host of federal and provincial bodies that will enter the regulatory process ahead of the MD and Cardston County. 

 “This is where we fit into the hierarchy of approvals — when everything else is done,” he told council. 

The AUC can approve utility projects over the objections of local governments, according to Alberta’s Municipal Government Act.

“The commission takes into account local governments’ positions on projects, both when they support a project and when they oppose a project. It is incredibly helpful to the commission for municipalities to participate in the AUC’s decision-making process,” AUC spokesman Geoff Scotton told the Breeze.

Paul McLauchlin, president of the Rural Municipalities of Alberta, takes a different view. 

The AUC “ignores municipal planning authority on a regular basis,” he said earlier this month. “They actually institutionally ignore it.”

 

Ad for Aurora Eggert Coaching in Beaver Mines

 

McLauchlin said renewable energy will play a critical role in southwestern Alberta’s economic future, adding that many food producers have welcomed projects like Riplinger because developers typically pay well to lease private land. That money spurs investment in ranches and farms, but McLauchlin warned that unchecked development on arable land would jeopardize regional food security. 

James Van Leeuwen, who heads a power company in Pincher Creek and sits on the Southwest Alberta Sustainable Community Initiative’s board of directors, said Riplinger would be “unremarkable” if it weren’t tentatively sited near the Waterton Biosphere Reserve, an environmentally sensitive area designated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in 1979. 

“Waterton is an ecological gem,” he said.

Van Leeuwen participated in SASCI’s 2018 regional economic study, which was commissioned by Shell Canada, the Town of Pincher Creek and the Alberta Real Estate Foundation, shortly after Shell announced it would probably shutter its Waterton gas plant (Shell Waterton) by 2030. 

Shell Waterton employed about 100 people when SASCI published its findings. Most lived in the town of Pincher Creek, while the plant generated about 20 per cent of tax revenue in the surrounding MD.

The study found that Shell Waterton generated 10 per cent of regional GDP, which renewable energy projects can’t match.

 

Wedding banquet view of wedding venue — the Cowley Lions Campground Stockade near Pincher Creek in southwestern Alberta.

 

Van Leeuwen noted that renewable energy projects might pose similar environmental impacts at the construction phase, especially because concrete and steel bear heavy carbon footprints. 

“But that’s not the point,” Van Leeuwen said. “What we’re looking at are the impacts over the lifetime of the infrastructure and for renewable energy.… We’re displacing a high-impact energy source with a low environmental impact energy source.”

Speaking at last Friday’s info session in Hill Spring, James Mottershead said TransAlta hasn’t finalized plans for Riplinger, including the proposed transmission line. 

Ryan Desrosiers, an environmental consultant retained by TransAlta, said the line would probably come through the MD. Transmission lines are regulated by the AUC in conjunction with the Alberta Electric System Operator, according to Geoff Scotton. 

Desrosiers said TransAlta hopes to host an information session in the MD sometime this spring. 

TransAlta hopes to submit its application for Riplinger to the AUC by June, according to Mottershead.

 

Table setting of wedding venue — the Cowley Lions Campground Stockade near Pincher Creek in southwestern Alberta.

 

 

 

 

More Local Stories

 

 

 

 

Laurie Tritschler author information. Photo of red-haired man with moustache, beard and glasses, wearing a light blue shirt in a circle over a purple accent line with text details and connection links