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A how-to guide is being created to help wind and solar energy developers find the path of least resistance to building in Saskatchewan.
The World Wildlife Fund is working with the University of Saskatchewan, SaskPower and the First Nations Power Authority to develop an online tool for proponents to identify project locations.
Greg Poelzer, a professor from the University of Saskatchewan School of Environment and Sustainability, said the goal is to meet renewable energy targets by helping future projects succeed.
The Renewables from Nature web tool will provide guidance on identifying sites, improving consultation and minimizing environmental impacts.
“Especially in Europe where there’s been a lot more wind development than Canada, you can get a lot of pushback on renewable energy development so people don’t want wind turbines in their backyard,” said. Poelzer.
“Or the bigger issue, they think that they haven’t been involved in the process at all.
“If we do not do siting properly, renewable energy will become the next oilsands target, you know, with protests and all that.”
Sask. can learn from mistakes
Poelzer said that – compared to parts of the United States and Europe – the province is a late-starter when it comes to renewable energy, meaning it can learn from others’ mistakes.
Algonquin Power, with support from SaskPower, has been approved to build a 177-megawatt wind project in the Blue Hills area of southwest Saskatchewan.
The company had previously tried to build a 79-turbine wind project near a shorebird habitat at Chaplin, Sask. but the site was rejected by the province in late 2016.
A public review period for the Chaplin project yielded 137 responses. All but one of them said they supported wind energy but were unhappy with the specific location, including environmental concerns about migratory birds.
SaskPower has set a goal to increase its wind power capacity from 221 megawatts (MW) to about 2100 MW by 2030.
Climate change increases urgency
James Snider from the World Wildlife Fund said Saskatchewan and Alberta have made the largest commitments to increase renewable energy capacity.
He said the failure of the Chaplin project is an example of why early evaluation is needed.
“These development projects can take at times years [and] millions of dollars for their development,” said Snider, vice-president of science, research and innovation.
“Some would argue that given the urgency of climate change, given the need for us to be developing these new projects in a timely manner, we need to make sure that we’re getting it right from the onset.”
‘Roadmap’ for First Nations development
The First Nations Power Authority wants to help First Nations communities develop their own renewable energy projects.
“We think the wind toolkits would help to provide a bit of a roadmap for local developers at the community level to do just that,” said FNPA chief executive Guy Lonechild.
“To provide and navigate what the step-by-step process would be.”
Lonechild said there are hopes renewable energy can also lower power bills in First Nations communities where utility rates are higher.
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