South Peace News
An open house held at the Jean Cote Community Hall Nov. 1 appeared to do little to alleviate concerns from area residents regarding the proposed wind farm north of Falher.
Despite ABO Wind Canada Ltd. bringing several experts in their respective field to answer questions to lessen concerns, a woman asked a pertinent question near the end of the presentation when she asked for a show of hands to support the project.
No one in the room raised their hand.
“I understand how passionate people are about this project,” David Berube, social impact and engagement lead, ABO Wind Canada Ltd., told the approximate 100 attending.
He explained ABO’s business was development and construction of such projects. The Falher project includes 26 turbines that would generate 160 megawatts of power. The current timeline calls for ABO to submit the project to the Alberta Utilities Commission in 2024.
“When the plan is submitted, there is an opportunity for public input,” said Jon Cooper, project manager since 2019.
If approved, construction would begin in 2026 and be operational in 2026.
The project is estimated to cost between $300-400 million and is all privately funded.
Currently, all projects in Alberta are delayed for six months while the Alberta government gives a second look. The moratorium ends Feb. 29, 2024.
Several experts spoke about concerns expressed in past meetings and by direct contact. Justin Lee, a technical consultant, spoke on noise, shadow flickering and visualization. Lee showed charts noting there would be minimal impact regarding noise. The same charts were presented for display in the hall. Lee stressed the project meets minimum requirements for noise day and night.
Regarding flickering, it is expected the turbines will not exceed 26 hours per year, well under acceptable guidelines. The 26 hours does not take into account clouds and trees, so in fact, Lee argued, the number would be less.
Plus, he added, it assumes the turbines would operate 24/7 which they do not.
Biologist Robert McCallum, of McCallum Environmental Ltd., also spoke. He told the audience about the stringent guidelines in place to ensure the project meets standards.
McCallum pulled no strings when he first admitted the turbines would cause some bird mortality.
“Every (development) causes bird mortality,” he said, adding it could be as simple as building a house and destroying bird habitat.
“It’s the function of development. That’s the way it goes.”
McCallum added if the government found mortality rates too high, the company would have to adjust its turbine activity to compensate.
Dr. Chris Ollson noted in his presentation that the M.D. of Smoky River has decided on a one-km setback from turbines and residences. He noted it was far more than in Ontario, which has only a 550-metre setback.
Ollson added he had studied impacts on wind projects for 15 years.
“You have to look at the research,” he told the audience regarding concerns.
He added the noise caused by turbines does not pose a risk to the public’s health. He suggested there was more noise inside a car than noise caused by turbines.
In fact, well under the 40-decibel minimum limit.
Ollson added the overall conclusion in a Health Canada study determined no impact on health.
Ollson was later questioned by an audience member who suggested ABO Wind brought him there to support the project. Olson replied he had said the same thing under oath and that nothing had changed his opinion.
Darren Clark spoke on property values. He told the audience there was no evidence in studies completed outside of Alberta to suggest property values would decrease with a wind farm in the area, but he did admit there were no studies completed in Alberta.
Berube concluded the presentation by assuring residents to keep contacting him with concerns.
“This is not the last opportunity to hear information,” he said.
“This is an ongoing process.”
The audience was allowed to ask questions before breaking off into smaller groups. Many of the concerns were again brought forward as in the past. Financing (possible government subsidies) and eventual ownership of the wind farm were also questioned.