Renewable power strategy
In support of Suncor’s greenhouse gas (GHG) goal, our Renewable Energy team is working to economically add approximately 800 megawatts (MW) of new, more efficient power capacity over the next 10 years. This new power capacity is expected to contribute to both direct and indirect GHG emission reductions.
Since entering the renewable power generation business in 2002, we have developed eight wind power projects which have a gross generating capacity of 395 MW.
Our renewable energy strategy has three main aspirational drivers:
1. Offset carbon dioxide
Suncor plans to offset 1.5 megatonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent per year by 2030 through the build-out of 800 MW of renewable power generation with a focus on the western Canadian market. We have a number of renewable energy sites in our development portfolio. The prime focus is on wind and solar power sites in Alberta, starting with the proposed Forty Mile Wind Power Project.
The proposed Forty Mile Wind Power Project is located in southeastern Alberta on approximately 50,000 acres of private land, south and east of the town of Bow Island and in the County of Forty Mile. The project is proposed to be developed in two phases for a total of 400 MW. The proposed project will consist of wind turbines, meteorological tower(s), an electrical collection system(s), turbine access roads and temporary construction facilities.
2. Create economic opportunities for Indigenous groups
Renewable energy is a common interest we share with many Indigenous groups who are working to develop projects for their own consumption as well as for capacity-building with their respective economic development corporations.
In support of Suncor’s long-term social goal, we plan to create economic opportunities for Indigenous groups through both service provision and equity partnership opportunities. The jointly-owned Adelaide Wind Power Project in southern Ontario has contributed to a positive working relationship between Suncor and Aamjiwnaang First Nation.
3. Preserve future optionality for Suncor
Suncor recognized the value of renewable energy 18 years ago and in 2002 commissioned our first wind power project in Gull Lake, Saskatchewan. Since then, our investments have focused on wind power and biofuels, and we continue to evaluate opportunities in other renewable technologies such as solar.
As a large electricity generator in Alberta and an industry player focused on reducing its carbon footprint, Suncor continues to work with policymakers, industry partners and other stakeholders to increase investment in renewable power development.
Renewable power operations update
Our wind power facilities located in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario have a gross generating capacity of 111 MW, enough to power about 52,000 homes and to avoid approximately 179,000 tonnes of CO2 per year.
Suncor and Aamjiwnaang First Nation are partners on the Adelaide Wind Power Project, in Strathroy, ON, with Aamjiwnaang First Nation owning a 25% interest in the project and Suncor as operator. Other Western Canadian wind power projects that we have interests in, but are not the operator, include Chin Chute, Magrath and SunBridge.
Adelaide’s safety performance remains strong with zero recordable incidents to date, thanks in part to working alone technology. This technology uses a mobile phone-sized device worn by personnel while on site that monitors the person’s location and well-being via cellular network.
In 2018, Suncor’s Renewable Energy and Environment, Health and Safety (EH&S) teams worked with Adelaide’s turbine service and maintenance contractor to perform a site EH&S audit. The audit identified some opportunities to improve processes and safety for the project, which are being implemented.
The Renewable Energy team attends regular monthly meetings with project partners and contractors to ensure effective stewardship of the project. Suncor is also an active member of the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA), which provide resources and conferences to stay current on renewable energy safety, technology and best practices.
Suncor works closely with industry experts and contractors to drive availability and production goals for the Adelaide project. The Renewable Energy team is focused on applying new technology for inspections and data analytics to enhance and optimize the wind farm’s performance.
Renewable Energy collaborates with its internal supply chain management partners to efficiently execute procurement processes, manage contractor responsibilities and cost controls. This work ultimately builds stronger operating results for the business.
Suncor closely monitors the requirements of the Adelaide project’s Renewable Energy Agreement (REA), the permit awarded by the Government of Ontario. Some REA commitments for Adelaide include:
- species at risk habitat enhancement and monitoring
- raptor mortality monitoring
- water quality and acoustic monitoring
- hazardous waste collection
All requirements are managed by team members and contractors through Suncor’s regulatory compliance tool.
Data analytics continues to be an area of focus for Suncor, as does drone technology, which looks promising for wind turbine blade inspections. We are also exploring the use of drones for greater reliability, along with safer and more efficient inspections. Suncor monitors and evaluates a variety of new technologies for both new development and operating facilities.
Suncor is a partner in four operational wind power facilities in Canada. It’s critical that Suncor and its partners demonstrate a commitment to communities in which the facilities have a presence.
- In Alberta in 2018, the Chin Chute Wind Power project made a donation to the Safe Haven Women’s Society, and the Magrath Wind Power project made a donation to the Magrath & District Emergency Services department for an equipment upgrade initiative. Suncor also contributed to HALO Rescue’s annual fundraising event, the only dedicated medivac helicopter for southern Alberta and southwest Saskatchewan.
- In 2018, the SunBridge Wind Power project in Saskatchewan continued its support of Gull Lake Communities in Bloom and Crescent Point Pool in Gull Lake. Suncor also supported the Women of the Dawn Counseling Centre in Regina for their annual children’s Christmas event.
Suncor operates Canada's largest ethanol facility by volume – the St. Clair ethanol plant in the Sarnia-Lambton region of Ontario. The plant opened in June 2006 and has a current production capacity of 400 million litres per year.
St. Clair recently surpassed four billion litres of ethanol production, a site milestone.
Ethanol produced at St. Clair is blended into Petro-Canada gasoline. Government regulations in Canada and the U.S. require that a percentage of ethanol be blended into fuels to reduce the environmental impacts of vehicle emissions.
Ethanol is a cleaner-burning, renewable resource produced from corn that is not considered to be suitable for human consumption. The St. Clair ethanol plant uses approximately 40 million bushels of corn annually, a significant portion of Ontario’s annual corn crop. The type of corn used as feedstock has traditionally been used to feed livestock. Once the starches are extracted from the corn to make ethanol, the remaining elements are used to make premium cattle feed. A third-party industrial gas plant is attached to the St. Clair plan to capture CO2 from the fermenters, which is then sold to the local greenhouse industry.
A life cycle value assessment conducted for our St. Clair ethanol plant estimated that overall CO2 emissions could be reduced by up to 300,000 tonnes per year by blending 10% ethanol from the St. Clair plant into gasoline.
In addition to our St. Clair ethanol plant and to ensure that the product we sell to our consumers remain cost and carbon competitive, Suncor has also invested in the following companies:
- Enerkem Inc.: In 2019, we invested in Enerkem, which manufactures biofuels and renewable chemical products from household garbage that would otherwise be landfilled. In addition to a financial investment, a number of Suncor employees have been seconded to Enerkem’s facility in Edmonton.
- Flint Hills Resources: a biodiesel plant in Beatrice, Nebraska
- Lanzatech: a biofuels firm based in the United States that is advancing a proprietary gas phase fermentation technology to recycle waste gas and greenhouse gas emissions into low-carbon fuels and chemicals.
According to the International Energy Agency’s Renewables 2018 market analysis report released in October 2018, fuel ethanol will account for two-thirds of the worldwide growth in conventional biofuels between 2018 and 2023.