TransCanada Announces Solar Farm Acquisitions

TransCanada, the company behind the controversial proposed Keystone XL pipeline project that will transport tar sands oil to the USA, has announced the acquisition of $470 million worth of solar farm projects.    

TransCanada says it will purchase nine Ontario solar panel based facilities with a combined capacity of 86 megawatts from Canadian Solar Solutions Inc.

Subject to government approval, the projects are expected to commence operations between late next year and the middle of 2013.

TransCanada says it currently operates the largest wind farm in Canada and the largest wind farm in New England. The company also has hydro facilities in three US states and is a partner in Canada’s first private nuclear generator.

Emissions-free energy isn’t TransCanada’s sole focus however. While the company refers to itself as being “a leader in the responsible development and reliable operation of North American energy infrastructure including natural gas and oil pipelines”, TransCanada has come under attack for its proposed Keystone XL pipeline project; with fallout spreading all the way to U.S. President Barack Obama.

According to Wikipedia, if approved, the project will transport synthetic crude oil and diluted bitumen thousands of kilometres from the Athabasca Oil Sands in northeastern Alberta, Canada to various refineries in the United States.

Alberta’s boreal forests are being destroyed at an alarming rate in order to extract the bitumen that lies beneath them. Up to four tons of landscape are dug up and between two to 4 barrels of water are also needed to produce one barrel of crude from the tar sands. Pollutants such as mercury, arsenic, lead and cadmium have been detected in the Athabasca River and its tributaries, said to be a result of tar sands industry activity.

Canada’s tar sands oil extraction sector is one of the nation’s greatest contributors to its considerable carbon footprint. The burgeoning industry’s impact is said to have played a role in the Canadian government recently stating it would exit from the Kyoto Protocol.   Renowned NASA climate scientist Dr. James Hansen has labelled the Keystone XL project as the equivalent of lighting a fuse to “the biggest carbon bomb on the planet.”   If the pipeline is allowed to go ahead, the fear is demand for the toxic payload it will transport will increase exponentially, fuelling even more destruction and emissions. Additional concerns are pipeline leaks or sabotage that would also wreak environmental havoc.

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According to the IS Foundation, the original Keystone pipeline, which has only been in operation since June 2010, has already experienced 12 spills.

President Barack Obama has come under increasing pressure to veto the project, but is under just as much pressure to allow it to occur.

Crucial legislation related to payroll tax cuts Obama wanted pushed through were recently held hostage in the U.S. Senate; with the ransom being a demand the President grant or deny a permit for the pipeline within two months.

Big Oil lobbyists have been accused of orchestrating the standoff and while the ransom was met, it could backfire on Keystone XL Pipeline supporters as the time frame may not allow for a thorough review. That being the case; the permit may be denied …for now.

by Energy Matters

The Author

I took an interest in the Australian energy sector close to ten years ago and since then have monitored the trends, technologies and direction of the Australian Energy Market. I was drawn to the Australian solar market in 2008 and since then have worked heavily in the field. I am partnered with national and international solar energy companies, from manufacturers of solar panel and inverter technology, online software developers that introduce tools to quote, monitor and manage solar power systems and media organisations who like myself, closely monitor the solar and renewable energy sector.

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