The Cochrane High School (CHS) Sustainable Development Committee is taking their proposed wind turbine project back to the drawing board.
The decision came after a Sept. 13 community consultation.
“We’re re-grouping,” said CHS teacher and committee head, Stephanie Bennett.
“There are definitely options to move (the turbine) and we are listening to the people in the community.”
What began as a student-led initiative for sustainable development has turned into a conundrum, with the CHS committee on one side and Cochrane Heights residents opposed to the project on the other.
“We profusely object to the size and location of this turbine,” said Brenda Samborski, one of the leading voices for the ‘No Turbines in Town’ coalition that has recently been formed to contest the student project.
The original proposal was for a 60-foot-high 5kW Evance 9000 wind turbine to be erected behind the CHS gymnasium, with a blade diameter of 5 and a half metres; the size of the structure is about half of the size of a recently proposed turbine project by a similar student committee at Calgary’s E.P. Scarlett, which was kiboshed.
Area stakeholders opposed to the CHS turbine have expressed concerns such as potential noise, health and safety, as well as the visual obstruction of the construct.
Members of the Sustainable Development Committee assert that they have done extensive research that should be able to quell any concerns with respect to noise, low frequency noise, health and safety; to view a podcast of Stephanie Bennett’s Sept. 13 presentation, which outlines this research, visit cochrane.rockyview.ab.ca/chs-alternative-energy-proposal.
Those who oppose the project feel that those who support it, including Rocky View Schools board, have not been transparent over the last several months and have failed to appropriately address community concerns.
Bennett and CHS principal Susan Poole assert that they have done their due diligence to address any and all community concerns, but feel the issue has been blown out of proportion through extensive media coverage; namely, the size of the structure itself, which is relatively small in comparison to many other wind turbines placed in residential areas.
Both Bennett and Poole agree that in moving forward, it is key to make sure everyone affected is satisfied with the end result.
“This is absolutely brand new, so consequently, in terms of us trying to follow a process this is lacking,” said Poole, adding that because this situation is precedent-setting, there is no process to follow and that the school has only followed the process they know: secure funding in order to be taken seriously and then involve the community in the consultation process.
“We want to make sure as we proceed with our community consultation that it is fair to everyone involved,” said Poole.
An initial permit application was submitted to the Cochrane Planning Commission for review; the school has since been informed that they have to submit their application to the Alberta Utilities Commission for approval.
Currently, no permit application to build the wind turbine has been submitted. The project is on hold as the committee works on reconfiguring and possibly redesigning the project before bringing it back to the table for community consultation, although they could not specify at this time what changes will or will not be made.
Both Bennett and Poole agreed this has been a tremendous learning opportunity for the students involved and the school as a whole.
Brenda Samborski said the last thing she hopes is for she and her fellow community members to come across as being opposed to student efforts that support green energy; she asserts that her group only wishes that CHS would redesign the project or move the location of the project outside residential areas.
To get in touch with CHS with respect to the wind turbine, contact Stephanie Bennett at 403-932-2542; to get in touch with the ‘No Turbines in Town’ coalition, email email@example.com.
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