The city’s public school board is abandoning its plan to install a 43-metre wind turbine that would have towered over a southeast Calgary school ground because of opposition from area residents.
But a top official with the Calgary Board of Education said Monday he hasn’t given up on the idea of installing a large-scale wind generator at one of its facilities.
Frank Coppinger, the CBE’s superintendent of facilities and environmental services, said that since the proposed site at Dr. E.P. Scarlett High School was made public a little over a week ago scores of nearby homeowners had expressed their fears about the turbine’s visual impact and a possible reduction in their land values.
“With the number and the strength of the feedback we received, we’ve made a decision not to proceed with the project at this site,” Coppinger said.
“At some time in the future, we’ll investigate whether there is another suitable site and a more receptive community.”
CBE officials had said the turbine would give students an opportunity to learn about renewable energy, while reducing the board’s carbon footprint each year by an amount equal to the emission from 14 cars or light trucks.
There was debate, however, about the board’s claims the $290,000 machine would actually save it money.
While Coppinger initially suggested the 50 kW generator would pay for itself inside 20 years, he said later the turbine was part of $15.5 million in energy saving upgrades to 35 schools – including more efficient light and heating systems – that would pay back within two decades.
A source with intimate knowledge of the proposal told the Herald the payback for the turbine was actually 38 years, longer than its expected life.
Renewable energy experts have also questioned whether the machine would ever pay for itself at current power rates, and suggested the suburban location was unlikely to have enough wind for the machine to operate efficiently.
Canyon Meadows resident Darlene Karn, who was organizing residents to petition trustees to halt the turbine, is relieved the board relented.
“I’m elated at the news,” said Karn, “but I’m still upset at the glaring lack of community consultation.”
Coppinger conceded none of the community leagues in the area were consulted in advance about the turbine. Area trustee Sheila Taylor said she was told about the plans two weeks ago and that no signs were posted in the neighbourhood in advance of last Wednesday’s meeting.
Karn said most residents learned about the proposal only when an ad was published in the newspaper a few days before the gathering.
While the CBE reassured residents at the forum that noise from the turbine’s nine-metre long blades would be inaudible in their homes, Karn said there were also worries about mechanical failure that board officials were unable to answer.
The source, which the Herald has agreed not to identify, said seven schools around the city were identified as a possible location for the turbine, but that Dr. E.P Scarlett was chosen because it offered the greatest setback from area homes – a minimum distance of 130 metres.
Another location, Colonel Irvine School in northwest Calgary, was shortlisted and then dismissed because of turbulent winds and the possible impact on area residents
In both cases, the tower would have been located far enough way from the school that it wouldn’t strike the building if it toppled over in a high wind.
Coppinger said it would be at least a year before the CBE pitches a turbine at another school.
Karn said if there’s another proposal, she hopes residents are told sooner and that their concerns aren’t ignored or downplayed like at last week’s public meeting.
“It was presented as a done deal at the open house,” she said. “I’m dismayed and disappointed because I think there needs to be a greater level of transparency from the board.”
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