Cochrane council was presented a draft of the Renewable Energy Framework (REF) March 9, which, if passed, would permit Cochrane High School (CHS) to erect a wind turbine, just not to the scale the school had originally planned.
During town administration’s development of the REF, research was conducted on five major sources of renewable energy: solar, geo-exchange, district energy, micro-hydro pressure reducing valves and small wind.
Of the five, it was determined that solar would be the best option for Cochrane, which aims at garnering 30 per cent of its energy from renewable sources.
The REF does state that the least feasible renewable energy option is wind, as wind speeds fluctuate greatly in the Cochrane area and high capital costs are attached to wind turbines.
The reason behind the town developing the REF stemmed from CHS’ plans to put up a 60-foot (roughly 20 metres) high Evance R9000 wind turbine on school grounds.
At one point, Rocky View Schools had approved the school’s wind turbine project, but took a step back when the Town of Cochrane announced its desire to develop the REF.
CHS’ renewable energy plans also spurred some backlash from some area residents, who felt putting up a 20-metre wind turbine on school property, which is located in a relatively high-density residential area, was not appropriate.
Brenda Samborski, who is a member of the No Turbine In Town group, said she was pleased with the town’s REF and that CHS would not be permitted to put up a wind turbine to the 20-metre scale it had originally planned.
Samborski said her group had contacted the school and asked them to consider putting up a smaller turbine, but that at the time, they did not seem interested in doing so.
The proposed REF does permit wind turbines between 12-30 metres in height, but would designate them to defined areas in town, primary along the Bow River and away from residential developments.
Small turbines (12 metres or less) must be setback from the nearest residential property line by a minimum of 36 metres, from the nearest play area by 12 metres and emit a maximum of 35 decibels of noise during nighttime hours.
Larger turbines (between 12 and 30 metres) must have a setback of 150 metres from the nearest residential property line and adhere to the same noise guidelines as small turbines.
One alteration to the REF, which as presented to council Dec. 8, 2014, was to allow for more than one wind turbine to be erected on a single parcel of land, leaving the decision at the discretion of the approving authority.
As for the most feasible renewable energy option for Cochrane, solar was broken up into three forms: roof-mounted solar panels, ground/pole (high density residential) and ground/pole (low density residential).
Councillor Morgan Nagel questioned administration’s request for $50,000 in the REF as a starting point for the town to ‘lead by example’ when it comes to renewable energy.
Nagel said he did not want to open the door to potential rising costs for the town implementing renewable energy initiatives when they had no idea what the future price tag would be for such a plan. Nagel did say he was in favour of the REF and renewable energy, but questioned the $50,000, a sentiment Coun. Jeff Toews echoed, but added that the town could lead by example through education as well.
Coun. Ross Watson commended the students and staff of CHS for being leaders on renewable energy and prompting the town to devise the REF.
A finalized REF will be brought before council for first reading April 27.
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