Alberta Utilities Commission Approves Buffalo Plains Wind Farm Project

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The Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) has approved what will become Canada’s largest wind farm when completed.

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In a Feb. 10 decision, the AUC authorizes 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 wind turbines of 6.2 megawatts (MW), with a total production capacity of 514.6 MW. A substation will be built to the west of the village.

The turbines have a hub height of 115 meters, a rotor diameter of 170 meters and an overall height at the blade tips of 200 meters.

The wind farm will displace about 795,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide and provide enough power for the equivalent of 240,000 Alberta homes, the ABO Wind website reads.

The AUC says the project’s approval is in the public interest and that many of the adverse effects associated with the project are “minimal in nature” and have been “adequately addressed” by the conditions attached to the approval.

“In particular, the Panel considers that agricultural impacts related to collector pipes and impacts to weed propagation, water wells and cooperative pipes are likely to be minimal.”

Project noise is “likely to meet” permitted daytime and nighttime sound levels at all wind turbine sites, the AUC concluded, and the panel is also satisfied that potential impacts from shadow flicker have been ” reasonably assessed” and that measures are in place to address shadow flickering issues if they occur.

Rotating wind turbine blades can periodically cast moving shadows on nearby land and buildings as they spin. When these shadows pass over a constrained opening such as a window, light levels in the room can rise and fall as the blades rotate, resulting in a flickering effect, the commission explained.

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The AUC is also confident that the environmental impacts of the project can be adequately mitigated and that the existing reclamation requirements sufficiently address the responsibilities of the company at the end of the life of the project, reads the report’s conclusion.

“The Commission does not find that the project will affect the safety of residents, based on the actions undertaken by (ABO subsidiary) Buffalo Plains and the conditions imposed by the Commission, including those related to the use of the road .”

The AUC found that the wind farm will affect aerial spraying capacity in the region, but added that “the potential for economic losses from adverse impacts on aerial spraying is likely to be minimal.”

Among the conditions included in its project approval, the commission required that a turbine shutdown protocol be followed when a request is received at least 24 hours before impacted aerial spraying operations, and this measure is “reasonable to alleviate Lomond Opposing Wind Projects (LOWP) concerns about aerial spraying issues.

“The Commission nevertheless weighed the potential consequences associated with aerial spraying impacts in its overall determination.”

ABO says the project will provide significant benefits, not only to Albertans in general, but also to residents of Lomond and Vulcan County through a combination of direct financial investment ($750 million), local tax revenue ($75 million dollars over the life of the project), increase in economic activity and employment (300 local construction jobs and 15 full-time positions), and by producing electricity from a renewable source, the report reads. It would also establish a $600,000 Community Boost Fund for local initiatives, which would operate over the proposed 25-year operational life of the project, as well as the Green Option Program, which would pay out $1,000 per year. to residents living within two kilometers of a project turbine.

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“While the Commission understands that LOWP members have challenged the sufficiency of the Community Drive Fund and Green Option Program offered by Buffalo Plains, the Commission believes that these programs can financially benefit the Lomond area. There are also direct financial benefits to local landowners who host project infrastructure on their land. »

ABO said in a Feb. 14 press release that before the project is ready for construction, there are several other goals to achieve, including an additional permit for a transmission line.

“We are thrilled to reach this important project milestone,” said Buffalo Plains Project Manager Jonathan Cooper. “Alberta is in the midst 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 delighted to contribute significantly to this growing industry in this great province.

In September, the Vulcan County Municipal Planning Commission (MPC) approved development permits for 81 of 83 wind turbine sites.
ABO has proposed placing the remaining two turbines on land zoned on the urban fringe, and the company said it is working with Vulcan County to determine if the turbines are compatible with that zoning and said it will apply for permits. of development for these two turbines in the future.

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Professional planner Albert Flootman, representing Lomond Opposing Wind Projects and Todd and Michelle Oosterlee, wrote in a February 23 letter that a planned appeal of the MPC’s approval of development permits has been withdrawn. The hearing was to take place before the Land and Property Rights Tribunal.

“Obviously my clients lost,” Flootman wrote. “While the residents of Vulcan County will benefit from the projected property tax revenues and the residents of Alberta will benefit, even abstractly, from the greater availability of wind energy, the residents of Lomond and the region will bear all the costs without any substantial effort. having been brought, apart from my work, to review the whole of the development in a perspective of regional planning.

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