Calgary

Vulcan County could be home to 83 wind turbines taller than the Calgary Tower

The Alberta Utilities Commission will look at a proposal for a 500-megawatt wind farm in Vulcan County, which would be the third major green energy development in the area.

Buffalo Plains Wind Farm seeking approval from Alberta Utilities Commission

A wind turbine overshadows a grain elevator near Pincher Creek, Alta., on March 9, 2016. A 500-megawatt wind farm is being planned for Vulcan County. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

A 500-megawatt wind farm proposed for Vulcan County is headed to the Alberta Utilities Commission. 

If approved, the wind farm would be the third major green energy development in the county.

The project, called the Buffalo Plains Wind Farm, is planned for a site near Lomond, Alta., which is around 175 kilometres southeast of Calgary.

It would consist of 83 wind turbines spread across 24,000 acres (9,710 hectares) of privately owned farmland. 

Jason Schneider, the reeve of Vulcan County, says the towers will be larger than usual — standing at 115 metres tall, and with blades that have a rotor diameter of 170 metres.

"To put that in comparison, the Calgary Tower is 191 metres tall. From the ground to the tip of these blades, it'll be about 200 metres," he told the Calgary Eyeopener.

He says this will produce a substantial amount of power, which will be around six megawatts per tower.

"The towers have definitely grown substantially and … they're producing three times the power as well.

More jobs in county

The reeve says an added bonus is that the project would bring much-needed tax revenue and jobs to Vulcan.

"They are proposing about 300 construction jobs and then the permanent jobs would be 10 to 15 range," he said.

"As far as permanent jobs, it is quite a bit lower than some other industries, but the construction process of this is quite substantial and it does employ a lot of people for a couple years, for sure."

Vulcan is also home to the Blackspring Ridge Wind project, which, when it was installed in 2014, was the largest single site in Canada.

"We do have a little bit of experience in the wind sector. And then we also have a solar farm that is in the process of being built right now," said Schneider.

He says having this sector come to their county has changed the landscape in terms of investments.

"For rough numbers, when the Blackspring Ridge project came online, it was about 20 per cent of all the county's entire tax base, which is, you know, quite substantial," he said.

"When you compare it to at the very peak of oil and gas (in 2004 and 2005) that made up 50 per cent of our tax base. So it's big numbers and they definitely change things." 

The utility commission will hear public submissions on the wind farm until Feb. 24., but ultimately it is a provincial decision as opposed to municipal, Schneider says.

"We definitely do hear people with some current concerns on these, especially when you're proposing towers that are taller than the Calgary Tower," he said.

"Ultimately, the Alberta Utility Commission is the one that kind of makes the final decision."

  • Listen to the full interview below:
How Vulcan County is finding itself in a bit of a green energy revolution. 8:14

With files from the Calgary Eyeopener.

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