Huffing and puffing from Montgomery Place residents couldn’t blow down the city’s plan to build a wind turbine at the Saskatoon landfill as city council voted to approve the project Tuesday night.
Councillors approved a city administration request to seek proposals for the design and construction of an 80-metre tall wind turbine at the landfill. Three councillors – Pat Lorje, Darren Hill and Tiffany Paulsen – voted against the proposal.
With the approval, the city administration will send out a request-for-proposals for the $5-million project. The city plans to have the turbine running by January 2013.
Some residents of Montgomery Place, which borders the landfill, had written letters and spoke at council Tuesday night to express their concern about adverse health effects of a turbine in their neighbourhood. Coun. Pat Lorje read a prepared statement outlining her opposition to the project.
“I feel like I’m fighting a losing battle because as soon as you announce a project is green everybody stands and salutes the flag,” Lorje said.
One of her concerns centred on environmental assessment reports that have yet to be made public. Stantec Consulting has completed an environmental assessment requested by Environment Canada, and although preliminary results indicate a turbine could harm the gull population and that some mitigation measures might be required to reduce the risk for some bat species, the report won’t be available until December.
“Before we make a decision of this magnitude, we should have all the reports tabled,” Lorje said. “This is not a responsible way to make reasonable decisions for the people of Saskatoon.”
The $5-million project is partly funded by the provincial and federal governments, which have pledged $2.35 million in funding. The city has already spent $530,000 on consulting and assessment work.
Approving the city administration’s request would allow the project to be finished by the March 13, 2013 deadline set for projects funded by the federal-provincial funding agreement. Waiting for the environmental assessment reports to be tabled could mean the city would miss its deadline and not qualify for funding, according to the city administration.
Saskatoon Light and Power has been studying the project’s feasibility – including wind and foundation stability tests – since 2006. The wind turbine concept used by the city would have a capacity of two megawatts, which would power about 500 homes. The annual 3,000 tonne reduction in greenhouse gas emissions is the equivalent of removing 600 vehicles from Saskatoon streets, according to the city.
The city’s proposal addresses the health concerns by dismissing the work of one researcher often cited by people opposed to wind turbines. “‘Wind Turbine Syndrome’ is not a recognized diagnosis in the medical community, and there are no unique symptoms or combinations of symptoms that would lead to this hypothesized disorder,” the city report states.
The report also states that noise generated by the proposed wind turbine is far less than the 60-decibel level known to cause fatigue and sleep deprivation. The worstcase noise level for the nearest residence is 37 decibels, similar to the background noise level in a quiet bedroom, the report states.
The city’s turbine will be setback 700 metres from the nearest residence, significantly more than the 550-metre distance used in the world’s most stringent guidelines, the report said.
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