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Alberta power generator fined for operating without regulatory approval

An Alberta power generator has been fined for running a power plant without regulatory approval. Alberta's provincial flag flies in Ottawa, Monday July 6, 2020.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

An Alberta power generator has been fined for running a plant for months without regulatory approval.

The Alberta Utilities Commission has fined Avex Energy nearly a quarter-million dollars for running a natural gas-fired generator while bypassing regulatory tests for safe and unobtrusive operation. 

"They have not been approved to operate," said commission spokesman Geoff Scotton.

According to an agreed statement of facts, officials from what was then Avila Energy approached the commission with plans to build a generating station in the County of Stettler in the summer of 2019. Avila already held permits for operating a natural gas field in that area of central Alberta and planned to use that gas to fuel the plant.

"On the basis of those discussions, Avila believed that no additional approval was required and proceeded on that basis," the statement says.

The generator was built and fired up on April 23, 2021. 

The electricity, eventually reaching 3.5 megawatts, was sold to a bitcoin miner. Avila, which eventually turned into Avex Energy, planned to generate up to 10 megawatts.

By December, the commission began to receive noise complaints from residents, some as far as nearly three kilometres away. 

"The complainants stated that they first noticed the noise in May 2021 and that the noise became increasingly problematic in October 2021, when the additional generating capacity was added," the agreed statement of facts says. 

The utilities commission investigated the noise complaints and found Avex was unlicensed. 

Investigators found Avex had not applied for a permit to build the plant. The company had not conducted a noise assessment as required, nor did it receive required environmental approvals. 

The Red Willow power plant was shut Dec. 22, 2021. It remains closed. 

Avex was "co-operative, forthright and responsive," during the investigation, the commission said in a summary of the settlement.

The total fine was $241,477. It was reduced 30 per cent because of the company's response to the investigation. 

Commission spokesman Geoff Scotton says such infractions are unusual but do occasionally occur. 

"From time to time these situations are brought to our attention."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 12, 2024.

The Canadian Press

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