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Pair of wind farms clear regulatory governmental hurdles

Major wind power facilities to the east and west of Medicine Hat are clearing hurdles this week as new approvals are sought from provincial regulators and others are obtained from local government.

That includes the Cypress Wind facility that will be built southeast of Dunmore next winter and the newly announced Rattlesnake Ridge wind farm along Highway No. 3 between Bow Island and Seven Persons.

Companies behind the projects, worth an estimated $450 million combined, are scheduled to be built starting next summer and in service the end of 2021.

Both projects were noted in the provincial budget that was released this week as part of an overview of economic conditions in the province.

The partnership behind Rattlesnake Wind made a formal application to the Alberta Utilities Commission Friday for the facility that was given the go-ahead last week.

“(It) is an outstanding project that brings valuable investment to southeast Alberta and connects a new renewable energy resource to Alberta’s grid without the need for government subsidies, while also providing revenue to participating landowners,” said William Christensen, a vice-president with BHE Canada.

That company, a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway Energy, is moving ahead in partnership with the Canadian wing of British builder Renewables Energy Systems.

Earlier this month, EDF, a France-based utility giant, obtained a rezoning from Cypress County council to build its planned 48-turbine facility on land south of Irvine, bordering Highway 41.

That decision, on Oct. 16, was held over from an earlier hearing where county councillors questioned potential long-term liabilities of decommissioning the site and and either disposing or recycling the turbine blades.

The company has agreed to the unusual step of agreeing to put up either a letter of credit or bond as part of agreements with landowners, said project director Mark Gallagher.

“We’ve addressed the concerns about decommissioning,” said Gallagher, who outlined the industry standard process in early October, but did not object to a delay so council could study the issue.

“We’ll hire a third party consultant to determine what’s needed, which would be a combination of scrap value and what more is required, but it’s hard to determine what the cost of anything will be in 20 to 25 years.”

EDF officials have said they have agreement with 97 per cent of the nearby residents in the area, including land owners who will be paid lease income.

BHEC also touted the local benefits of its smaller, 28-turbine farm in materials presented at recent open houses. It states the facility would pay about $1 million in annual property taxes plus about $750,000 combined per year owners of the 83 quarter sections comprising the tower sites and underground gathering system.

The project, located generally between Township Roads 104 and 114 and Range Roads 83 and 93, will include a service maintenance building near a new power substation. It will feed power onto an existing transmission line that parallels Township Road 104 near Highway 885.

A proposed construction schedule in the application states predicts ground levelling and road building could begin next summer.

EDF expects to engage a general contractor in early 2020, as well as hold an open house for local contractors to learn about opportunities, specifications and supply needs.