Opponents of the Wild Rose 1 Wind Farm project in the area bordering the Cypress Hills Provincial Park say the public perception of wind power is inaccurate.
Paul Huene, and environmental scientist who gave a power-point presentation on the topic at Tuesday’s Cypress County Council meeting where the Wild Rose project was approved, says wind power is a complicated issue with an oversimplified image.
“I’m disappointed with the decision (to go ahead with the wind farm,) Huene said in an interview Wednesday. “The whole issue of wind power is very difficult. If you take wind power by itself, it’s a no-brainer. Free power. No pollution. But you can’t look at it by itself. You have to look at it in terms of integration into the Alberta grid and because Alberta is tied to Saskatchewan and B. C., you have to look at it in terms of interchange between jurisdictions. It’s a very complicated issue.”
The Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO) has set up ground rules for wind-generated power that make the resouce less environmentally friendly than is widely believed. Its lack of reliability is one of the wind project’s two fundamental problems, said Huene.
“The way the AESO is set up right now, wind power is taken before any other power so when the wind is blowing, AESO has to take the power,” he said. “That meand that the coal-fired plants operate on what they call a spinning reserve mode.”
The spinning reserve mode, Huene said, is analogous to a car at a stoplight. The vehicle is idling, is still consuming fuel, is emitting pollution from its exhaust system but is not going anywhere.
Another objection to the Cypress Hills wind-test towers is that they will interfere with the character of the Hills.
“The wind farms are major industrial facilities and that is the only way you can look at them,” said Huene. “Is industrial development appropriate given the minimal amount of electricity that is going to be generated?”
Of the 10 industrial wind facilities up and running in southern Alberta, 32 per cent is the highest value given to wind-power production capacity. The Cypress Hills facility is expected to be productive between four and 30 peer cent of the time. At the world’s most productive wind farms in Europe, that capacity reaches 42 per cent.
“The electricity produced is unreliable but the infrastructure is always there. It’s in your face all the time,” Huene added. “And the character of the hills, to my mind, will be disrupted by that. Everything that we do has an impact so it becomes a question of trade-offs and balances.”
Henry Binder, another opponent of the Cypress Hills development, agrees.
“If we are going to have a limit on the amount of wind power we can produce, let’s not produce from the places where we’ll have to sacrifice other valuable amenities like we will at this location,” said Binder.
The Cypress County land-use amendment was approved by a 7-2 vote and is just the first step in getting the wind-test towers up and running. Development permits have yet to be obtained and the county is awaiting the approval of the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board to proceed.
By Lee Ann Tripp
Medicine Hat News
19 July 2007
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