In a case which could have implications for the provincial government’s ambitious targets for renewable energy generation, the Municipal Planning Commission for the MD of Pincher Creek, which has one of the largest densities of wind farms in southern Alberta, rejected the proposed Windy Point Wind Project earlier this month after about 80 local landowners said enough was enough.
“There’s two issues,” said Bill Trafford, president of the Livingstone Landowners Group which led the charge against Windy Point. “When you see a beautiful windmill turning on a green pasture, it looks great, but the problem is these wind farms are creating linear disturbances through environmentally sensitive areas. Even though they bury the line, they are still having to get access to them by building roads and so on.
“Secondly, the transmission you need behind it is significant,” he added. “In the case of Pincher Creek, the companies are saying now that we have built all these windmills, let’s have a big transmission line across Highway 22 and up into the hills to join up with their line coming down from Calgary. So it is kind of a case of what looks good on the front page of a newspaper with the picture of windmill turning and a headline about renewable energy doesn’t really tell the story. You are actually in this area, because of the overbuild, sacrificing the environment for the sake of the environment.”
Trafford said the proposed Windy Point Project poked a sleeping bear, and has awakened it.
“We (the LLG) are not fed up with the windmill companies per se,” Trafford stated. “What we are actually disturbed about is the provincial government has actually issued a target of 30 per cent renewables by 2030, but the problem is that is a very aggressive target. The only way it can be met is through wind, and the only way to get there is to build as much as you can in an area like Pincher Creek.”
And these concerns are not falling on deaf ears, confirmed MD of Pincher Creek deputy reeve and MPC vice-chair Rick Lemire.
Lemire expected the Windy Point decision to be appealed, but admitted the feedback received from so many local landowners opposed to the project weighed heavily in the MPC’s deliberations.
“It’s time to step back, pause and take a look forward to what we need to do here with wind going forward with our MD’s (land use) bylaw,” agreed Lemire. “There was a lot of feedback from residents in regards to cumulative effects of having so many wind farms in one area, the flicker, the shadowing of the blades, the visual, the noise, the light impact, and on them being put on native grass as opposed to cultivated grass. There was a lot of people saying ‘let’s stop (windmill development) for now, review and see what we have, and review our approval process.’”
Marc Stachiw, president of the Alberta Wind Energy Corporation which had applied to build the Windy Point Project, confirmed in an email to The Herald that his company was exploring its options to make an appeal. Stachiw also confirmed his company was aware of the Livingstone Landowners Group’s criticisms.
“We are aware of concerns raised by the Livingstone Landowners Group, including concerns over expansion of the electrical transmission grid,” he stated. “It is worth pointing out that the proposed Windy Point Project does not require or trigger any new transmission lines development. Furthermore, all turbine ‘tie-in’ cables will be situated underground, thus greatly reducing the environmental and visual impacts of the project.”
Stachiw said the economic benefits of such a project should speak for themselves.
“The Windy Point Wind Farm will have the potential to add approximately 150 construction jobs, and long-term operations and maintenance jobs during the life of the project,” he stated. “In addition, the project will provide indirect jobs and opportunities for local businesses and will significantly add to the tax base of the municipality, all while providing safe and renewable energy for future generations of Albertans.”