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Wind power project gaining strength

Compared with the coulees surrounding Lethbridge and the western slopes of the Rocky Mountains, Lacombe County doesn’t exactly stand out as a windy destination. However one wind power group sees it as a place of potential.

Greengate Power Corp. is looking at establishing wind power turbines on two sites near Lacombe – one to the north bordering Ponoka County – and one five kilometres east of town, dubbed the Chigwell Project.

“Traditionally wind hasn’t been looked at here in this area as a source of power,” said Dan Balaban, Greengate founder, president and chief executive. “We believe that the Chigwell site has the potential to be an economically viable site, and that there are good winds there to generate power.”

The Lacombe County projects are part of Greengate’s plan to develop 1,100 megawatts of electricity on seven wind farms around the province over the next two to four years.

At the purposed Chigwell project site, the 150-megawatt wind farm would require 20,000 acres of land, and could see as many as 75 wind towers erected as part of the $300-million project.

“So far, in the early stages, we’ve got good support from the landowners in the area. And that is something that is very important to us,” said Balaban. “We want to include landowners as much as possible, we want their input. We want the communities to be involved with these projects.”

Balaban gave a presentation to Lacombe County council last week, which, according to County Reeve Terry Engen, was a presentation well-received.

“From a municipal perspective, the reaction from council to Greengate’s presentation was a positive one,” said Engen. “Right now it’s a proposal that we’re quite interested in learning more about. It is too early to take a stand one way or another, there are lots of things we have to look at, our bylaws in particular, since there currently isn’t anything in the land use bylaw that deals strictly with wind power development.”

Over the coming months, Balaban says his company plans to conduct wind study work – which included erecting a wind measurement tower – and environmental assessments required by both the provinical and federal governments. Greengate also has projects in mind for Winter Hills, near Drumheller; Stirling, near Lethbridge; and Halkirk, east of Stettler.

“The sites we’re looking at aren’t necessarily the windiest spots in the province, but there’s plenty of breeze and they are close to existing transmission lines, which is really important because that locality means the system can be up and running sooner after the towers are in place,” said Balaban.

“It will be interesting to see this project unfold,” said Engen.

Balaban, who says he has vested interest in green technology, is optimistic about the future projects.

“There’s still lots of work to be done, but I am excited about moving forward.”

By Heather Pickett
Globe Staff Writer

The Lacombe Globe

11 December 2007