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Energy company eyes Chicken Hill Lake area for wind turbine project

The Shamrock Valley area, located 13 miles east of St. Paul, could one day become the site of 385-meter-tall wind turbines, scattered over 75 quarters of land, according to information from Northlands Energy Inc.

The energy company has started moving on the project, with the hopes of promoting green energy in Alberta. Northlands has been dropping off information packages, as well as contracts to residents in the area to get local approval.

However, the project has already been met by some strong opposition, as residents are wary of the potential side effects wind turbines could have on property values, and the overall way of life of the largely agricultural area.

Reszel Farms was among the first to voice opposition to the project, urging residents from the area to thoroughly consider the issue. Noise, risks to local wildlife, and views of the natural-looking countryside are among the issues the family cited.

Kyle Reszel says he believes the wind turbines could have a negative effect on the area, but his primary concern is transparency with the project.

“I just think that with a project of this size, it’s important for everyone, including municipalities and residents, to know what’s really going on here. I’ve been doing my best to talk to neighbours and our (County of St. Paul) councilor, just to keep myself as well as others up to speed,” said Reszel.

Gordon Potts is the lead on the project, and says the plan is still in the very early stages. Potts says it could be seven years before there are wind turbines standing in that area, if the project moves forward.

“The Chicken Hill area is an interesting plot for us,” says Potts. “It has potential as a viable wind source. We’ve sent out our land agent to meet with local landowners to gauge interest. It takes a bit of time to bring people up to speed, and give them an appropriate idea of what we might ultimately construct. We need at least one year to collect wind data to ensure that the area could provide an adequate power source.”

The 90 turbines that were mentioned in a paid advertisement taken out by Reszel Farms in the June 14 edition of the St. Paul Journal is “ambitious,” says Potts. The initial plans would only include about 30 wind turbines.

But if the resources were deemed suitable for more, then more turbines could be added for an eventual total of 60 to 90 wind turbines, over many years, he added.

Potts says that Northland Energy understands the concept of wind power is not a familiar one in northeastern Alberta, as all current wind farms in Alberta are based in the south.

“We are cognizant of the fact that this is a new concept for the locals, but we plan to make sure that once the project gets rolling on, we will relay as much information as possible to keep them informed,” says Potts.

“Our usual pattern with building these projects is to ensure it is well received by the locals. If the plan for the number of (turbines) was 30, we could discuss preferred locations, and just discuss local issues and concerns.”

County of St. Paul CAO Sheila Kitz says the municipality has yet to hear directly from the company on the project. The only information the county has received is one of the 21-page contracts given to them by one of the local residents, she said.

“We can’t make a comment at this time as the issue has not been tabled at council yet, and we have very little information.”