Canada’s biggest oil sands company eyes 240MW of solar PV

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Oil sands - sometimes incorrectly referred to as 'tar sands' in Alberta, Canada. Image: Flickr user: Howl Arts Collective.

Canada’s biggest oil sands mining company, Suncor, has put in applications for 240MW of PV projects to regional electric system operator, AESO.

The North American country’s Alberta province features the world’s largest deposits of bitumen in sand, which can be taken either from the surface or, more commonly, mined from underground.

Ranked #1 by Alberta Oil Magazine’s 2015 listings, in an industry which generated total revenues within Canada of US$69.9 billion in 2014, Suncor has submitted system access requests to Alberta Electric System Operator for three 80MW solar facilities. Suncor has also put in applications for 440MW of wind projects.

According to AESO’s records, the Suncor applications are the only project applications for large-scale solar received in the operator’s queue since 2005, besides around 30MW across two projects proposed by renewables developer BluEarth.

Canadian news website National Observer quoted a Suncor spokeswoman, Nicole Fisher, who said that the projects were at the “very preliminary development stage” on Monday.

“Renewable energy is an important part of the global energy mix as we work toward a sustainable energy future,” Fisher added.

The projects will be Suncor’s first solar farms, the company having pulled out of a proposed project with Canadian Solar previously.

Despite the company’s obvious reliance on fossil fuels, Suncor CEO Steve Williams is on record as having acknowledged the need to take action on climate change.  

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