The proposed Sharp Hills Wind Farm near the hamlets of New Brigden and Sedalia, north of Oyen, has many in the region questioning the potential impact the dozens of turbines with massive blades will have on their health and the environment.
According to EDP renewals, the wind farm, which would be one of the largest of its kind in North America, would include 83 turbines capable of generating enough combined energy to power approximately 160,000 homes each year.
Each of the Vestas V136 3.6 MW wind turbines (200 m) would stand taller, hub with rotor, than the Calgary Tower (191 m) and residents in the area fear they will affect more than the scenery.
“It’s not that we’re against renewable energy, we know we have to have that, our concern is there is not enough testing done with these towers,” said Sheldon Kroker, an opponent of the project. “We had talked to the company, a few of us individuals about bringing one of the towers out here, testing it in our environment, in Canada, but to no avail.”
Kroker says plans for the wind farm have been in the works for years but the sizable turbine model was not disclosed until the summer of 2017. The towers have never been tested in North America.
“There are no real studies on a tower this size when it comes to health effects and, for a lot of our community members, that’s the big sticking point.”
Kroker adds the proposed site, approximately 300 kilometres northeast of Calgary, is on a major flyway for migratory birds.
Nicole Blair, a nurse who is a mother of three with a fourth child on the way, says the sound of the fan blades and the shadows cast by the towers will interrupt the peace in their quiet community that has been a great place to raise children.
“My husband and I have researched all the health implications and they’re not good,” explained Blair. “People who suffer from migraines can be prone to more and the health implications are endless.”
“That’s not something I want to put myself or family through.”
According to the project’s opponents, more than a dozen families in the area have agreed to allow the wind farm to install a turbine on their property but the owners do not all live on their land and would not be affected by the towering structures.
In a statement to CTV Calgary, members of the Wilson family, who have lived on their property for 55 years, explained their decision to allow eight turbines on their land.
“At first we said ‘no way’,” explained Linda Wilson. “Then we started to think about the future and thought we need to open new horizons with energy and the local economy and this will create jobs.”
EDP renewals officials say the construction of the turbines will create approximately 300 temporary jobs and the windfarm would require up to 20 permanent workers throughout the operational life of the project.
The Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) hosted hearings in Oyen and Calgary involving EDP renewals and a community group opposed to the company’s proposal. The AUC will rule on whether the project is in the public interest of Alberta and is expected to release its decision in September.
The Sharp Hills Wind Farm was one of four projects selected by the province and the Alberta Electric System Operator in December 2017 for the renewable energy program. Officials with the AUC says the commission is forbidden by law from allowing the Sharp Hills Wind Farm’s inclusion in the renewal energy program to impact its decision.
With files from CTV’s Alesia Fieldberg