Land users to council: No wires

By John Stoesser, QMI Agency

In a move to block a proposed power line project a local landowners association asked M.D. council to consider designating Divisions 1 and 2 of the county as wind power and transmission line-free zones at a recent meeting.

“It is our request to find a way to declare the area south of Highway 3 and west of Highway 810 as an area free of wind farm development and high-voltage transmission lines,” Stephan Blum, the vice-president of the Chinook Area Land Users Association, said. “Why are we asking this? What I’m trying to do…is run you through a number of facts that deal with wind power and hopefully open up a discussion.”

Blum’s information-heavy presentation and request didn’t start a flood of queries from council.

“Well Stephan, you look like you expected a bunch of questions,” Councillor Fred Schoening said. “I am surprised that you are surprised… I am the Division 2 councillor and I try to keep my ear on the ground and listen to the people in my division. So I think I know where you’re coming from. I’m also a landlord in that division and the power lines could affect me. But we have to glean this as information and sort through what is the best way to do it, so don’t expect a whole bunch of questions.”

Claiming to represent over 200 individuals and roughly 80 per cent of the landowners in those divisions, Blum gave the councillors plenty to mull over.

“It is possible for us to do a zone, a no-wind zone, a no-go zone,” director of development and community services Roland Milligan said, noting that the Burmis-Lundbreck Area Structure Plan already regulates wind development in some places. “But one thing you have to remember, it is an amendment to the land use document. It’s a political process, a public process.”

The land user association pointed to a number of reasons for prohibiting wind energy and power lines in the area.

They say that the needs document that forms the basis for installing power lines as part of the Alberta Electric System Operator’s (AESO) regional grid-strengthening project is outdated, rendering the planned lines unnecessary or at least over-sized.
The AESO’s original needs document for the Southern Alberta Transmission Reinforcement (SATR) project was approved by the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) on September 8, 2009.
“This is a time when everything was increasing,” said Blum, an engineer. “Oil prices were increasing, energy prices were increasing. Everybody was mad about the economic development at the time. That’s where the data were generated that predicated the growth that actually is happening for the next 25 to 35 years. What happened after that, we all know, the whole financial market collapsed and we got into a very different scenario compared to what we had before.”
The AESO has heard these claims before and in a previous interview Greg Retzer, the vice-president of transmission project delivery, said that they revisit the parametres for new power lines on a regular basis and that the needs were approved.
On Friday, May 30, AESO posted their long-term outlook that predicted the provincial economy, along with energy generation, will continue to grow. While the report indicated that growth would be primarily linked to the oil and gas industry in northern Alberta it did forecast that Alberta’s wind power generation will double from 1,088 to over 2,200 megawatts in 10 years time.
A large portion of the province’s wind power is generated in southern Alberta, including the Pincher Creek area. The lines that would run through the region are part of the proposed 220 kilometre-long Goose Lake to Etzikom Coulee (GLEC) transmission project. Contracted to AltaLink under the SATR umbrella, the project to connect wind generation to the grid has an estimated cost between $300 million to $450 million.
“We risk mortgaging the future of Albertans because once (the power lines) are there they cannot be removed easily,” Blum said, claiming the GLEC lines running through Pincher Creek would greatly reduce land value in the county. “So we will see the long-term destruction of the majesty of the mountain parts and this pristine area.”
According to an update the AESO and AltaLink are currently undertaking engineering studies on the GLEC component of SATR before continuing with applications and public consultations.
The stage to connect the Ware Junction to Langdon substation east of Calgary was recently cancelled. Other portions of the project are on hold after AESO identified them as missing progress marks as of yet.
“With regards to transmission we don’t really have any say where that goes, that’s a provincial driven thing,” Milligan said. “If it’s approved by the province we get to comment and if they feel it’s justified to go through an area we said we don’t want it to go through, they can overrule us according to the Municipal Government Act.”
According to financial statements released in April the municipal district expects to bring in almost $2.9 million from taxes on electrical and co-generation in 2014.