CEM Blog: How to Permit a CHP Project in Alberta

CEM Blog: How to Permit a CHP Project in Alberta

In the early stages of developing a Combined Heat and Power (CHP) project, we often walk a client through the permitting process, as this can sometimes be a critical path item on a project's schedule. I was recently asked at a conference about the permitting process in Alberta, as this can vary from the Ontario process. Below are the high level, critical permits that are needed for a CHP project.

What kind of permit and authorization processes do we have to follow to install a small or medium-sized CHP project in Alberta?

First, you have to get a development permit (which in other parts of Canada is known as a site plan amendment or site plan permit). This permit looks at what you are trying to do with the project (site servicing, etc.). Land re-zoning may also be required depending on the current allotment permitted.

This leads into a building permit, which looks at the structures and the code compliance of the building.

These two (2) permits go hand in hand (Development Permit and Building Permit).

The more difficult permit to get is the electrical interconnect permit. This is used by your electricity distributor to make sure that you have suitable electrical equipment, and that both the generator and the grid are protected when you connect. This permit can be a lengthy process that should be started early.

Tied to that in Alberta, you need an Alberta Utilities Commission approval if you wish to operate a power plant in the Province. This will normally include a Public Involvement Program to inform and consult with stakeholders on your project.

In addition, you need air, noise and groundwater approval. This approval comes from the Ministry of Environment and Parks. This looks at all the emissions of your system and what impacts your project might have on air emissions, noise emissions and groundwater.

There are also some other steps to consider. Things like “Can you get enough gas?”, which should be a discussion with your gas distributor. Then there’s boiler approval – if you are producing larger amounts of steam or very hot water then the piping and equipment design must be approved by ABSA. Of course, there is approval for the entire installation – structural, building, fire systems, mechanical and electrical must conform to the applicable laws and standards. This can include getting plan pre-approval, inspections, and testing.

What is an example of a success story?

In the south of Alberta, just outside of Lethbridge, several years ago CEM was involved in a very cool biogas project.

It featured 2 Jenbacher biogas engines rated @ x 1.4 MWe each, which takes agricultural by-products and deadstock from the nearby farms and animal residues, to be processed in the anaerobic digester. This produces the biogas that fuels the engines.

This 2.8 MWe project went through all of above-mentioned permits (and more). Although the permitting was a lot of work to develop, this a very special project – both in its unique fuel source and operation – and well was worth the hassle. It has now been successfully running for ~4 years.


Matt Lensink, Chief Operating Officer
CEM Engineering