Warren Buffett-backed Canadian firm announces $200 million Alberta wind farm

CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - BHE Canada, a unit of billionaire Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway Energy, will start construction on a $200 million wind farm in southeast Alberta next year, the company said on Tuesday.

FILE PHOTO: Berkshire Hathaway Chairman Warren Buffett walks through the exhibit hall as shareholders gather to hear from the billionaire investor at Berkshire Hathaway Inc's annual shareholder meeting in Omaha, Nebraska, U.S., May 4, 2019. REUTERS/Scott Morgan/File Photo

The 117.6 megawatt (MW) Rattlesnake Ridge Wind project will produce enough energy to supply the equivalent of 79,000 homes, said BHE Canada, which is backed by Buffett's Omaha-based Berkshire Hathaway Inc. BRKa.N

The project will be built without government subsidies and is being privately financed by BHE Canada through a combination of equity and debt. It will be developed by U.K.-based Renewable Energy Systems (RES).

A large Canadian corporate partner has signed a long-term power purchase agreement for the majority of the energy output from Rattlesnake Ridge, which will begin generating in December 2021.

“BHE Canada is excited to take this first step into the Alberta market, providing low-cost, renewable energy. We’re looking forward to more opportunities to invest in Alberta’s energy industry,” William Christensen, vice president of corporate development at BHE Canada said in a statement.

Alberta is the heartland of Canada’s oil and gas industry but the wind and solar energy sector has been growing in recent years, helped by the previous Alberta government’s Renewable Electricity Plan that included incentives for investment.

The new United Conservative Party government, elected in April, ended renewable energy subsidies and Premier Jason Kenney said Rattlesnake Ridge development was a vote of confidence in the provincial economy.

“Even more encouraging is that this $200 million project does not rely on government subsidies, but instead relies on the potential and opportunity that exists right here in Alberta,” Kenney said in a statement.

Alberta has the third-largest wind energy market in Canada with 1,438 MW of installed capacity as of December 2018, according to the Canadian Wind Energy Association. Wind energy meets 7% of the province’s electricity demand, the equivalent to powering 380,000 average-sized homes.

BHE Canada and RES have also secured permits for the proposed Forty Mile Wind Farm in southeastern Alberta and are looking for partners in long-term power purchase agreements. Forty Mile would have generation capacity of 398.5 MW, potentially making it the largest wind power project in Canada.

Reporting by Nishara Karuvalli Pathikkal in Bangalore and Nia Williams in Calgary; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli and David Gregorio