Shepard power plant breaks ground

Ground was broken Tuesday at Calgary's Shepard power plant.

$1.3 billion mega-project located on eastern edge of Calgary

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, ENMAX's interim CEO Charles Ruigrok and ENMAX board chair Greg Melchin were on hand to break the ground at Calgary's Shepard power plant. (CBC)

Ground was broken Tuesday at Calgary’s Shepard power plant.

The $1.3 billion mega-project is located on a 24-hectares site on the eastern edge of the city. When finished in 2015 the plant will supply half of Calgary’s current energy needs.

ENMAX's interim CEO Charles Ruigrok said the natural gas-fired plant will produce half of the carbon dioxide emissions of a coal-fired plant.

"The power is still going to go back to the grid, but it doesn’t have to travel all the way from Edmonton so it travels far shorter distances, so you lose far less electricity in the transmission which, at the end of the day, is a big benefit for consumers, both in terms of losses and building a transmission line that’s not required," said Ruigrok.

ENMAX is still trying to find a partner to help with the cost of the plant.

If unsuccessful, Ruigrok says they will delay another Calgary power plant ENMAX plans to build Bonnybrook Alta.

Located on Calgary's doorstep, the 800 megawatt power plant will reduce the need for new power lines for Alberta's grid as it's close to the end customer.

More than 200 workers are already at the Shepard site, and it is expected that 600 will be employed during the height of construction.

Although construction on the plant just started a couple of months ago, Ruigrock says about half a billion dollars has already been spent.

Despite the cost of the project Mayor Naheed Nenshi said city council stands firmly behind it, noting that it's good for the city, the environment and the power grid.

"This is the right thing to do for Calgary, for our electricity and energy needs and for sustainability in the future."

The endeavor is one of the largest projects ever undertaken by the City of Calgary or a related group, said Nenshi.

More energy changes are on the way. Two giant turbines that have been built in Japan will be shipped to Calgary next year.

The turbines will travel through the Panama Canal and the St. Lawrence Seaway before being put onto special rail cars on their way to Calgary.