A new crop has started sprouting among the grain fields surrounding Trochu and Huxley.
Over the last month, more than a dozen turbines have been erected for a wind farm that will have 51 when complete.
After a drawn-out legal battle with landowners worried about the effects of the project, the Ghost Pine Wind Power project is now underway, with preparations being made to connect into the provincial grid when it is complete.
Dale Moran, one of a handful of landowners who opposed the project – primarily because they fear the impact of noise and vibration – said the group was able to get some things changed before the project achieved final approval.
“We got seven turbines moved,” said Moran. One turbine, originally planned for a site about 500 metres from his house, was moved to a different site, more than a kilometre away.
The group was also successful in having the wind farm assess the impact of the turbines on migratory bats travelling through the area. However, there is no watchdog to ensure that the assessment is actually completed and that any recommendations are followed, he said.
County officials said they do not know how long it will take before the construction phase is complete and the turbines can start turning.
NextEra Energy Canada, based in Burlington, Ont., is building the project.
Spokeswoman Josie Hernandez said the wind turbines should be done by the end of 2010 and be operational early next year.
“A project this size is about $150 million to $160 million,” said Hernandez from Juno Beach, Fla. “Our company will actually finance the project and then it will go out to other investors after the project is complete.”
NextEra Energy Canada runs the Canadian operations while its parent company, NextEra Energy Resources based in Florida, runs American operations.
This 81-megawatt project could generate enough electricity to power more than 24,000 homes, Hernandez said.
“I think we’ve provided the community and as many people as we can the information on how our projects are managed. I think that has eased concerns.”
NextEra Energy Canada will set up an operational centre in the local area, she added.
It’s really too early to tell what the local impact of the windfarm will be, said Kneehill County Councillor Ken Hoppins, one of the landowners who has allowed the project to erect turbines on his property.
Hoppins would not confirm the number of turbines he will have, stating that is a private matter.
“They were coming to the community. We couldn’t stop them. So, if I have to look at them, I might as well get paid to look at them,” he said.
County CAO Kevin Miner said that while some residents are worried about noise and vibration, most people support the project because if offers a “green” alternative to electrical generation.
There will be an impact on the county’s tax base as well, he said.
While the county does not yet have an assessment on the project, Miner estimates that it will bring in about $500,000 in taxes per year.
About 150 construction workers are on the project right now, but once it’s operational the turbines will be maintained by about a half dozen employees, Hernandez said.
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