Professional planner Albert Flootman, representing Lomond Opposing Wind Projects and Todd and Michelle Oosterlee, wrote in a Feb. 23 letter that a scheduled appeal of the MPC’s approval of the development permits has been withdrawn. The hearing was scheduled to take place before the Land and Property Rights Tribunal. “Clearly, my clients have lost,” wrote Flootman. “While the people of Vulcan County will benefit from projected property tax revenues, and the people of Alberta will benefit, however abstractly, from the greater availability of wind energy, the people of Lomond and area will bear all of the costs without any substantive efforts having been made, apart from my work, to review the entire development from a land use planning perspective.”
The Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) has approved what will become Canada’s largest wind farm when completed.
In a Feb. 10 decision, the AUC is permitting a subsidiary of ABO Wind to construct and operate the Buffalo Plains Wind Farm near Lomond on approximately 7,100 hectares of private land.
The project will consist of 83 6.2-megwatt (MW) wind turbines, with a total generating capability of 514.6 MW. A substation is to be located west of the village.
The turbines have a hub height of 115 metres, rotor diameter of 170 metres, and an overall height-to-blade tip of 200 metres.
The wind farm will displace approximately 795,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide and provide enough power for the equivalent of 240,000 Alberta homes, reads ABO Wind’s website.
The AUC says approval of the project is in the public interest and that many of the negative effects associated with the project are “minimal in nature” and have been “suitably addressed” through conditions attached to the approval.
“In particular, the Commission considers that agricultural impacts related to collector lines, and impacts on weed spread, water wells and co-op lines are likely to be minimal.”
Noise from the project is “likely to satisfy” daytime and nighttime permissible sound levels at all wind turbine sites, the AUC concluded, and the commission is also satisfied that potential shadow flicker impacts have been “reasonably assessed” and that measures are in place to address shadow flicker issues if they arise.
Rotating wind turbine blades can periodically cast moving shadows over nearby land and buildings as they turn. When these shadows pass over a constrained opening such as a window, the light levels within the room may increase and decrease as the blades rotate, resulting in a flickering effect, the commission explained.
The AUC is also satisfied that the environmental impacts of the project can be adequately mitigated and that existing reclamation requirements sufficiently address the company’s responsibilities at the project’s end of life, reads the report’s conclusion.
“The Commission does not consider that the project will affect the safety of residents, based on the measures committed to by (ABO subsidiary) Buffalo Plains and the conditions imposed by the Commission, including those related to road use.”
The AUC found that the wind farm will affect the ability to aerial spray in the area, but added that the “potential for economic losses due to adverse impacts on aerial spraying is likely to be minimal.”
Among the conditions included with its approval of the project, the commission mandated a turbine shut-off protocol be followed when a request is received at least 24 hours in advance of impacted aerial spraying operations, and that measure is a “reasonable” one to mitigate the concerns of the Lomond Opposing Wind Projects (LOWP) group to aerial spraying concerns.
“The Commission has nevertheless weighed the potential consequences associated with impacts on aerial spraying in its overall determination.”
ABO says the project will provide significant benefits, not only to Albertans generally but also to the residents of Lomond and Vulcan County through a combination of direct financial investment ($750 million), local tax revenue ($75 million over life of project), increased economic activity and employment (300 local construction jobs and 15 full-time positions), and by generating electricity from a renewable source, reads the report. It also would establish a $600,000 Community Vibrancy Fund for local initiatives, which would operate over the course of the project’s proposed 25-year operational life, as well as the Green Option Program, which would pay $1,000 per year to residents living within two kilometres of a project turbine.
“Although the Commission understands that LOWP members challenged the sufficiency of Buffalo Plains’ proposed Community Vibrancy Fund and Green Option Program, the Commission finds that these programs may financially benefit the Lomond area. There are also direct financial benefits accruing to local landowners hosting project infrastructure on their land.”
ABO said in a Feb. 14 news release that before the project is ready to build, there are several more objectives to reach, including an additional permit for a transmission line.
“We are very excited to achieve this important milestone in the project,” said Buffalo Plains Project Manager Jonathan Cooper. “Alberta is in the process of an energy transition, triggered by a desire to diversify electricity supply and reduce carbon emissions. Buffalo Plains Wind Farm could help lead this transition in the province. Alberta continues to be a leader in the energy industry and ABO Wind is excited to meaningfully contribute to this growing industry within this great province.”
In September, Vulcan County’s municipal planning commission (MPC) approved development permits for 81 of the 83 wind turbine locations.
ABO has proposed locating the remaining two turbines within land zoned as urban fringe, and the company has indicated it has been working with Vulcan County to determine if turbines are compatible with this zoning and stated it would apply for development permits for these two turbines in the future.
Professional planner Albert Flootman, representing Lomond Opposing Wind Projects and Todd and Michelle Oosterlee, wrote in a Feb. 23 letter that a scheduled appeal of the MPC’s approval of the development permits has been withdrawn. The hearing was scheduled to take place before the Land and Property Rights Tribunal.
“Clearly, my clients have lost,” wrote Flootman. “While the people of Vulcan County will benefit from projected property tax revenues, and the people of Alberta will benefit, however abstractly, from the greater availability of wind energy, the people of Lomond and area will bear all of the costs without any substantive efforts having been made, apart from my work, to review the entire development from a land use planning perspective.”
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