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Residents remain ‘skeptical’ of school’s wind turbine

It was a full house at the Cochrane High School Lyceum Sept. 13, where some 100 community members, Rocky View Schools board members and school officials gathered to take part in a presentation made by Stephanie Bennett of Cochrane High School’s (CHS) Sustainable Development Committee on the group’s proposed 5 Kw Evance 9000 wind turbine project, followed by a community discussion.

“I am still very, very skeptical about change at this point,” said Brenda Samborski, a Cochrane Heights resident who has been instrumental in putting together the ‘no turbines in town’ group that is opposing the project.

For months, a growing number of residents in the Cochrane Heights area, near CHS, have expressed grave concerns over the proposed wind turbine that the school wishes to erect behind the school gymnasium, as part of the school’s ongoing initiative to have a greener school.

These concerns include the height (60 feet) and blade diameter (more than 18 feet) of the turbine, the visual obstruction of the construct, as well as potential noise, health and safety concerns.

These concerned residents are so unsettled about the project that they are currently forming a coalition, ‘no turbines in town’ and have retained legal council.

The school had submitted their application permit to the Cochrane Planning Commission (CPC) previously, but is now submitting their application to the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) for approval.

It is unclear at this point whether or not the application permit will still have to be passed by the CPC, or if this step will be bypassed through the application to the AUC, which is a provincial body.

“We’re still looking into clarification on that,” said Nicole Tomes, development planner for the Town of Cochrane.

“We’re looking to make sure legislation is followed and that the new Alberta Micro-Generational regulations are followed.”

This regulation “allows Albertans to generate their own environmentally friendly electricity and receive credit for any power they send into the electrical grid” as according to the AUC website; visit auc.ab.ca for more.

In a ‘letter to the editor’ published in this week’s Eagle, the school seems to admit to a sub-par level of transparency with concerned community members:

“Regardless of the outcome, we believe this project has been a valuable learning experience for CHS in terms of the extensive research conducted by students into micro-energy generation…In hindsight, CHS should have sought community input more extensively and earlier in the process. We will endeavor to do so in the future.”

Samborski and fellow community member, Richard Kennedy, expressed concerns over CHS’ seeming unwillingness to look at other green energy alternatives due to their claim that their corporate funding for the project would fall through if changes were to be made at this point; they are putting out a call to community members to contact nowindturbine@gmail.com to join their coalition.