Proposed windmill farm near Stirling prompts funding, wildlife and health questions

Wind turbines proposed in southern Alberta
WATCH ABOVE: Greengate Power is proposing 46 wind turbines that will span through Lethbridge and Warner counties. Global’s Sarah Komadina reports.

Greengate Power held an open house for its Stirling Wind project Wednesday. The company is proposing 46 wind turbines be built in Lethbridge and Warner counties.

Gary Bikman has lived in Stirling, Alta. for more than 40 years.

“What’s the domino effect? What are the unintended consequences?” Bikman asked.

The company started working on the project almost a decade ago.

“Technology has really developed and improved over the last 10 years since we started the project,” Greengate Power president and CEO, Dan Balaban, said.

“Each of the wind turbines is bigger, produces more energy and is more cost effective.”

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The company is hoping for subsidies through the Alberta Government’s renewable energy program.

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READ MORE: Alberta NDP sets 5,000-megawatt renewable power target 

The NDP wants to see renewable energy power 30 per cent of the province’s electricity grid by 2030.

“Our government has moved forward in making sure that we have the right policy environment to grow renewable energy in a way that is sustainable that makes for job creation and diversification in the economy,” Minister of Environment Shannon Phillips said.

READ MORE: Alberta offers rebates to municipalities, farms that set up solar power

Balaban said this project is expected to provide 200 jobs during construction and between 10 and 20 long-term positions.

Cardston-Taber-Warner MLA Grant Hunter has reservations.

“If the only reason why they’re coming is because the government is putting money… is it sustainable and it is a long-term project? These are questions these companies need to ask as well,” Hunter said.

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READ MORE: Solar power projects lined up in anticipation of Alberta NDP incentives 

“From what I understand, probably having a 20-year contract where, first of all, they get a cash injection and subsidy over 20 years. Who wouldn’t take that deal? But who’s going to pay for it?  The taxpayer is going to pay for it.”

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Many landowners voiced concerns over property values, wildlife and potential health impacts.

“We make sure that we space the turbines far away enough from residences so there’s no impact,” Balaban said. “If we find a nest in the project area, we have to make sure we don’t position turbines anywhere near that nest. We have set back from wetlands. We take all those constraints and put it in.”

If all goes as planned, Greengate Power is expected to start construction in 2018, with the turbines spinning by 2019.

Stirling is approximately 35 kilometres southeast of Lethbridge.