Three groups, C.A.L.U.A., AltaLink and the AESO, provided municipal council with information about the plan to strengthen the province’s regional power grid at council’s regular session on Tuesday, June 24.
First, the president of the Chinook Area Land Users Association, Anne Stevick, argued against both the necessity of the Southern Alberta Transmission Reinforcement (SATR) plan and wind development in Divisions 1 and 2 of the county.
“The viewscape of the once quiet, picturesque, pristine area of rolling hills set with a background of the majestic Rocky Mountains is rapidly becoming a maze of paraphernalia in the industrialization of power development,” Stevick said after citing the M.D.’s mission statement and referencing a study that claimed M.D. residents thought future industrial projects should be reduced. “The rural landscapes and scenery no longer identify who we were. Our landscape is rapidly changing who we are.”
Stevick, speaking for C.A.L.U.A.’s 40 members, did not contest already operating wind developments in the M.D. but said they should be contained along “appropriate areas” such as highway routes and questioned their financial efficiency.
She also asked council to designate Divisions 1 and 2 of the municipality as a wind power “no-go zone” to protect the area’s ability to generate income through eco-tourism and agriculture.
The group has made similar requests of council before. On May 27th, C.A.L.U.A. member Stephan Blum asked council to declare Divisions 1 and 2 of the M.D. as both wind and power line free areas.
AltaLink’s municipal and community relations manager for the area, John Grove, updated council on the company’s current progress routing the Goose Lake to Etzikom Coulee (GLEC) portion of SATR. Part of the GLEC lines are projected to run through the southeast of the county.
Grove told council the company looks for routes of minimal impact, factoring in proximity to residences, agricultural impacts, cost, watersheds, natural grasslands and oil/gas projects.
AltaLink added more routes to the GLEC proposal after completing the first round of public consultations in 2012. Then the Alberta Energy Systems Operator asked the company to hold off while the provincial operator reviewed the entire SATR project.
The main objective of SATR is to connect “bulk wind” generation to the grid.
“Recognizing that things can change we proposed milestones for each component of SATR,” Ata Rehman, long term transmission planning manager at AESO said. “So the milestones must be met for that component to proceed. And this was done to ensure that we move in a timely manner but also exercise prudence and make sure we need a component before we spend a significant amount of money in building that component.”
“When we meet with the AESO they maintain right to this day that the 2008 needs assessment is totally accurate, that in the next 20 to 25 years there will be hundreds of wind farms from here to Cardston County,” Stevick said during her presentation. “And we don’t believe that but they’re pretty adamant.”
After AESO’s recent review “the milestones are met, there is enough wind interest, we do have a forecast,” for GLEC Rehman said, noting the AESO is finalizing design studies on the lines before proceeding.
Other portions of SATR have been cancelled or paused due to “non-interest” in wind generation. Rehman said the GLEC line is justified due to an application for a large 300 MW wind farm in Cardston County.
Transmission lines could run through the Pincher Creek municipality to close the power line loop. A looped system provides backup or a fail-safe should one portion of the grid break.
“If any line goes down, especially if it is a backbone or major line, you don’t want them built as dead-end lines not going anywhere because everybody downstream loses power,” said Grove.
During their first consultations Grove said AltaLink found “the area that is most contentious is from just east of Cardston, coming south along the Blood (Tribe Reserve) and then north into the Goose Lake substation which is in Pincher Station.”
According to Rehman the existing lines in that area are outdated and undersized.The proposed 240 kV lines run on 44 to 60-metre-tall towers at almost half-kilometre intervals, each with a base of 14 m2.
Consultations and public hearings will resume. Applications from AltaLink to the provincial regulator are expected within the calendar year.
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