The proposal for three new wind turbines on Haeckel Hill has been given the green light by the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board.
The board’s Whitehorse office issued the recommendation on the condition an assessment of potential heritage resources be conducted at the site before any ground work occurs.
The review concluded that while the three additional turbines – with the possibility of a fourth in the future – would have an impact on the use of Haeckel Hill as a launch site for paragliders and hang gliders, the launch site could still be used.
Similarly, it’s not expected the development will have a significant impact on other recreational users of the site, says the 40-page evaluation report issued by the assessment board.
The report also concludes the impact on bats, birds and other wildlife will be minimal.
Available information, it notes, says it’s not likely bats will be up at that altitude.
The report also points out there are already two wind turbines on the site.
The assessment board’s recommendation has been forwarded to the two decision bodies – the Yukon government and NAV Canada. They have 30 days to accept, reject or vary the recommendation.
The development is being proposed by Northern Energy Capital and NGC Builders, the local company which built and operates the micro-hydro generating plant that powers the Fraser customs station on the Klondike Highway.
Northern Energy president Malek Tawashy said this morning they still need a final decision by the two decision bodies. If all goes forward, he said, they are still looking to be shovel-ready by next spring.
How the project proceeds will largely be dependent on reaching a power-purchase agreement with the territorial government and the publicly-owned Yukon Energy Corp., he said.
Tawashy said they can be producing renewable energy on Haeckel Hill within a year of securing a purchase agreement.
They are currently in discussions with the Chu Niikwan Development Corp. and other First Nation development corporations to see if they are interested in investing in the project, he said. Chu Niikwan is the development corporation belonging to the Kwanlin Dün First Nation.
Tawashy said they don’t need outside investment to raise the $14 million required to build the wind farm, but their goal is to have a renewable energy project supported by community investment.
The three turbines would stand 69 metres high to the hub, each with a generating capacity of 900 kilowatts, or a combined capacity of 2.7 megawatts, enough energy to power 525 homes.
The project proposal raised concerns from the Association of Yukon Paragliders and Hang Gliders.
The association was concerned the expanded wind farm would destroy a world-class launch site that was enhanced in 2015 with a $9,000 grant from Lotteries Yukon and volunteer labour to lay down 10,000 square feet of sod.
The Canadian long-distance paragliding record was launched from Haeckel Hill in 2015, involving a 250-kilometre flight to Pelly Crossing.
Russell Bamford, the president of the association, said this morning members will have to live with the assessment board’s recommendation and ultimately the decision from the decision bodies.
While the addition of the three new turbines will not render the launch site unusable, it certainly will add an intimidating factor, he said.
Bamford pointed out currently there are two wind turbines – one that hasn’t turned in several years and the other that’s in operation some of the time.
The three new turbines will be much larger, and will be operating full-time, he said.
They will, he said, be much more visible than the existing turbines, and local residents might be surprised at what they see when the towers are standing up.
Bamford said he favours what he described as less intrusive solar panels as a source of renewable energy.
If a vote was ever held among local residents regarding whether they were willing to accept the visual impact of new turbines on a prominent hill overlooking the city, he said, he’d be very interested in the results.
Yukon Energy installed the first wind turbine, the 150-kilowatt Bonus turbine, in 1993. It has been off-line for several years.
The 600-kilowatt Vestas turbine, installed in 2000, is still in operation.
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