Project to solve orphan oil well problem with solar energy gets green light

It’s a go! The RenuWell Project has secured funding to expand an initiative to help solve this country’s orphan oil well problem, starting with a pilot project in the Municipal District of Taber, Alberta.

In this difficult time for fossil fuel industry workers, good news is especially welcome.

We’ve kept you up to date through the years on developments with the RenuWell Project, an initiative we’re a partner of. RenuWell works to find ways to use inactive oil and gas infrastructure as a foundation for renewable energy development and provide opportunities for training and employment in renewable energy for fossil fuel industry workers.

Today, we are excited to announce that funding has been secured from the Municipal Community Generation Challenge, an initiative offered in partnership by the Municipal Climate Change Action Centre (MCCAC) and Alberta Innovates, to the Municipal District of Taber. The pilot project is moving forward to the next stage!

The project is the first of its kind and will employ fossil fuel industry workers in the conversion of two to four inactive wells into solar energy projects in the Taber area.

As Keith Hirsche, a leading innovator in the oil and gas industry and originator of the RenuWell concept, points out, there are several key innovations that make the RenuWell project unique. The approach uses brownfield sites for solar energy projects, which allows for productive use of the land while the long-term process of bioremediation occurs. Instead of removing the roads and powerlines during well reclamation, these pieces of infrastructure can stay in place and be repurposed for the solar energy project. This saves time and money for both the conventional and renewable energy industries.

We see this pilot project as an opportunity for those of our members who live in the region to get training in renewable energy while using skills earned in the oil and gas industry.

We know our members are ready to help build a net-zero emissions economy and have the skills to do the work. This project is a perfect example of our workforce building that new economy.

As for our part of the project, Iron & Earth is partnering with Medicine Hat College to develop a 5-day rapid upskilling program for fossil fuel industry and Indigenous workers to learn the basics of solar before working on transforming the well sites themselves. Our hope is to be able to offer this training across the province, and country, as this approach to repurposing abandoned wells takes off.

As Canada stimulates its economy following the pandemic, RenuWell is exactly the type of shovel-ready project we need to be investing in. The vision is that the RenuWell model can soon scale up to repurpose more of the hundreds of thousands of wells across Canada.

In fact, as Keith points out, if we transformed just 10% of abandoned wells across Alberta alone, we would be able to meet the land resource requirements for 6,200 MW of solar energy development. That is enough renewable energy to meet the government’s 2030 goals and it can be accomplished without removing additional land from agriculture.

This project is good news for workers, good for farmers and farmland preservation, good for emission reductions, and a good way to repurpose existing oil and gas infrastructure.

We are excited to get to work on what we hope will be the first of many such projects across Alberta and the rest of Canada.

Finally, a huge thanks to our fellow RenuWell project partners and funders: 

RenuWell Project Partners and Funders: 

In hope and action,

Lliam Hildebrand, Iron & Earth Executive Director


Iron & Earth was founded and operates on Indigenous land within Treaty Six Territory and Métis Region 4 in amiskwaciy-wâskahikan (in Nehiyawewin/Cree), so-called Edmonton. The home of many Indigenous Peoples including the Nehiyawak/Cree, Tsuut’ina, Niitsitapi/Blackfoot, Métis, Nakota Sioux, Haudenosaunee/Iroquois, Dene Suliné, Anishinaabe/Ojibway/Saulteaux, and the Inuk/Inuit.

We pay our respects to all Indigenous Peoples of this land. Through their spiritual and practical relationships with the land, a rich heritage for our learning and our life as a community has been created and maintained. We recognize that the transition to a low-carbon future must be led by Indigenous Peoples and that there will be no justice unless we acknowledge and repair our relationship with the land.

We are committed to responding to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Action and upholding the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and acknowledge that we are always learning and unlearning practices that minimize harm and lead to the development of trust between us and Indigenous Peoples across Nations and urban centers.