Cochrane High School (CHS) Sustainability Committee students, under the guidance of science teacher Stephanie Bennett, delivered a presentation on the history of their proposed wind turbine project to council Dec. 8.
While the students were commended for their perseverance, delivery of research and environmentally conscious efforts, their application to erect a 60-foot high small Evance R9000 wind turbine does not meet the criteria that administration would be recommending for wind energy guidelines under the Renewable Energy Framework (REF).
Further public consultation for the REF will take place in 2015, moving toward implementing the framework some time next year.
Administration was joined by Urban Systems to present a summary of their findings on renewable energy recommendations for Cochrane, based on research (including public and stakeholder feedback) of four renewable energy technologies.
Of the four explored: solar (both solar thermal and solar photovoltaic); geo-exchange; small wind (turbines); and biomass district energy; the findings are recommending Cochrane focus on two types of renewable energies – solar and biomass district energy.
Based on their public and stakeholder engagement sessions, the team found that there was overwhelming support for all renewable energies with the exception of wind technology – which is ‘highly polarized’, resulting from the controversial application to erect the Evance R9000 small wind turbine by CHS students. The application was postponed in early 2013 until the town developed an REF – a council priority this year. A grassroots coalition, ‘No Turbines in Town’, was formed by Cochrane Heights residents opposed to the scale of the project based on what they said is a lack of research on health and safety; controversial findings reported from people who live near turbines around the world; a lack of public consultation and a further lack of willingness to compromise or ‘scale back’ the project on the part of the school; and noise and aesthetic concerns. They garnered some 130 signatures in opposition of the project.
The CHS students and Bennett maintain that their research clearly shows that small wind turbines pose no real health or safety concerns, no negative impact on property values; that the turbine (to be placed on CHS property) meets the safety requirement of being a minimum of 140 meters from the closest residence; and that the 5kW small wind turbine meets the guidelines of the town’s noise requirements (maximum 50 dB at night and 55 dB during the day). The school also maintains that there would be ‘zero costs to the town, school or school board’ and has already secured the $45,000 to purchase and maintain the turbine.
Coun. Jeff Toews was skeptical of their assertion that the placement of a wind turbine would not have a negative affect on property values, as the students ‘went straight to the ministry and were to directed to consult the Cochrane property assessor’ and did not consult any local realtors.
He was also concerned that the Evance R9000 guidelines (in 2012) stated that this turbine should not be placed in a park or on a playground; the school asserts this is not for safety concerns, rather for maintenance issues.
His final concern was the school’s assertion that a similar project at Olympic Heights School in Calgary has resulted in ‘no concerns’ – as the CHS students have based these findings on what the principal of the school has told them, not on any public feedback from area residents.
The REF team, while not recommending the pursuit of wind technology by the town based on high capital costs and the highly polarized views expressed by community members has devised guidelines for private applications for wind turbines.
There are specific guidelines for wind turbines under 12 metres and for those between 12-30 metres; the latter would include placement in defined areas (namely along the Bow River) that would not have residential development in the ‘foreseeable future’.
There is currently no Evance R9000 small wind turbines erected in Canada, which are manufactured in the U.K.
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