What began as a staid open house on a proposed 47-metre wind turbine slated for a school ground turned stormy Wednesday when some southwest residents demanded to know why they weren’t “properly informed” of the Calgary Board of Education’s plan and questioned how such a project will benefit the community or even the environment.
While board officials defended the plan as a superior learning tool for students, staff and residents, visitors to the open house at Dr. E.P. Scarlett High School accused the CBE of not being transparent.
“It really aggravates me that the board doesn’t bother to notify people of these things in a public way,” said Christine Ingham, who lives in Canyon Meadows and says she found out about the meeting by accident.
“And then, we get here and see there is no balanced information, just how great they think it is.”
“There are health issues and animal issues and those are not being addressed here, just dismissed,” Ingham said.
Dorothy Cornwall, who attended the open house to report back to the Southwood Community Association, said she is concerned that in eight days the board plans to apply for a development permit from the city.
“Is that enough time for everyone to be informed?” asked Cornwall. “I like the idea and if it does help the CBE pay the bills and teach the kids, that’s great. But I wonder if enough people even know, or had a chance to speak out.”
Ingham and Cornwall were two of about 50 people who attended the open house aimed at providing the community with more information about the proposed $290,000, singletower, three-blade wind turbine.
It’s slated to be installed behind the high school and operational by the summer, if all goes according to plan.
Frank Coppinger, superintendent of facilities and environment services for the CBE, said not only will the wind turbine pay for itself in 20 years, the educational opportunities for students are invaluable.
“This is an ideal opportunity for this school, because it has an environmental club, to really get an appreciation for renewal energy and what’s involved,” he said. “Ultimately, we’d like all our students to be environmentally literate, to be aware of renewable energy opportunities and some of them hopefully will go into a related career.”
While many residents were wound up about not having enough notice about the open house and questioned whether the proposal was a “done deal” given the timeline laid out by the CBE, others were curious about whether the turbine would have other effects on the community.
“I will be able to see it out my second-floor windows at the front of my house so I am concerned about how that affects me if I go to sell my house,” said Britta Gustafson, who lives a half-block away from the planned location. “And I am so close, I wonder about noise.”
Gustafson also noted there is also talk about a cellphone tower being installed nearby.
“If they are both installed that means we will have two 100-foot towers going in within 100 feet of each other and I wonder what our community starts to look like after that. Does this pave the way for more and more and more?”
Representatives from Johnson Controls Inc., the company working with the CBE, said they weren’t allowed to answer questions from the media regarding safety, noise, health concerns or other issues and instead directed those questions to the CBE.
Coppinger described the turbine as very quiet.
“If you are within 65 metres, the sound is like the wind itself, so you won’t notice any difference,” he said.
He also said the cost savings for the school, which has a $175,000 annual power bill, amounts to about 10 per cent, or $17,500 a year.
Concerns about birds and bats being injured are unfounded, he added.
“One cat in the neighbourhood will cause a lot more risk to bird and bats than one wind turbine,” he said.
Literature provided by Johnson Controls Inc. echoed his remarks.