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Vital Signs report shows significance of wind power in southwest Alberta

Even though our province is known for its oil, new data coming from the latest Vital Signs report shows the nearly two dozen southwest Alberta wind farms can generate enough energy for tens of thousands of people. Kyle Benning has more.

As a university professor, Jim Byrne tries not to blow hot air.

But he thinks southern Alberta is an ideal place to capitalize on the wind energy market – not only for the gusts, but also for the location.

“We’re not far from any of the major grid lands,” Byrne said. “We can feed wind energy to Edmonton and Calgary, and maybe into the States before too long.”

READ MORE: Edmonton-based Capital Power to proceed with U.S. wind farm

Wind power is just one highlight of the 2018 Vital Signs report by the Community Foundation of Lethbridge and Southwestern Alberta on Thursday.

It measures the area’s livability, including climate.

“We’ve had snow in September this year. We had snow in April this year. So we’re certainly experiencing that,” executive director Charleen Davidson said. “The renewable energy piece is about tapping into that and making a more sustainable environment for future generations.”

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READ MORE: First large-scale wind power plant approved in Sask.

The report stated there are 21 wind farms in the area which could generate enough energy for about 100,000 Albertans.

Byrne would like to see provincial and federal governments start pushing harder to get renewable energy industries up and running.

“We help the oil industry an awful lot with a lot of support and a lot of reduced costs,” Byrne said. “So helping the wind energy industry is a good idea and it will give us the best long-term value and return to Alberta.”

READ MORE: Work continues on White Pines Wind Project despite province’s plan to scrap it

He predicted wind energy working in tandem with solar, hydroelectricity and backup batteries could generate enough energy to keep fossil fuels in the ground.

“Essentially I think that by 2030 or 2040 we could … pretty much move most of Alberta off of all fossil fuels – off of coal, off of natural gas – and be on electricity. The question is whether we have the will to do it,” he said.

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Byrne said one thing is for sure: Mother Nature will continue providing more than enough wind.

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