Lots of questions at wind turbine regulation meeting
August 10, 2017, 5:56 pm
There were lots of questions at an RM of Rocanville public meeting Thursday, August 3 regarding the regulation of wind farms.
The RM held the meeting to gauge public opinion on the bylaw regarding siting of wind farms. With a proposal for a new wind farm in the early stages, two RM residents asked the RM to hold a public meeting to discuss the current bylaw regarding the siting of wind farms.
The current bylaw limits the height of wind turbines to 100 metres, while new turbines are up to 200 metres high. Council members intended the bylaw to restrict wind turbines within 1.6 miles of a residence, although the wording of the bylaw is unclear on that point.
A subsidiary of NextEra Energy Canada is investigating the possibility of developing the Tantallon Wind Energy Centre in the RM.
In a statement to the World-Spectator, Tera Tyson of NextEra said, “We are committed to meeting or exceeding all the regulatory requirements and working with the community to ensure we select the most appropriate sites for generating wind energy.
“We are currently in the beginning stages of development and still working on our siting process, including meteorological testing, which will determine approximately where the project will be located and the number of turbines it will include.
“We are not working on a specific deadline to develop the Tantallon Wind Energy Centre, but I can tell you that we will not be submitting this project into SaskPower’s Wind RFP that is currently pending.”
NextEra wants to install a tower to test wind speeds in the area of the proposed wind farm.
NextEra had been expected to send a representative to the Thursday meeting, but didn’t. In a letter to Reeve Murray Reid on Monday, NextEra wrote that no one would be available for the meeting, but the company could send representatives to a future meeting.
The company suggested in the letter some changes to the RM’s bylaw on wind turbines. “Restricting turbines to 100 metres from the ground to blade tip would make siting wind turbines in the RM essentially impossible,” according to the letter. The company suggested including both a hub height and a maximum tip height in the bylaw to add clarity.
“To provide a frame of reference, the current industry standards for turbine hub heights range up to about 120 metres and typical rotor diameters are approximately 130 metres,” the company wrote. “Given that turbine technology continues to advance and evolve over time, we suggest the maximum height of the turbines be 200 metres, rather than the 100 metres stated in the bylaw. Otherwise, it is unlikely that any utility scale project would be built in the RM.”
SaskPower plans a series of requests for proposals (RFPs) to ramp up wind energy generation over the next few years.
Daryl Williamson and Rene Poelzer were the two ratepayers who first approached the RM about the need for a public meeting, and were the first to speak at the meeting.
“I’ve been looking into windmills and the distance from valleys and lake bodies. In this case the three bigger landowners who want to do this, their homes won’t be affected anyway—too close to the valley. Mine probably won’t be affected—too close to the creeks,” Williamson said at the meeting.
“The way this outfit went about doing this is a little fishy. I thought if they came and approached the RM to begin with, then held a meeting to say what their proposal was, instead of coming in and trying to sign up landowners.
“I had them come to my place. They were very pushy and they didn’t tell the truth more than once. I had more concerns of environmental impact. I think this RM has had enough between power lines, potash, seismographic. I’m not sure we have to do more in this RM in terms of impact. I’m sure there are other RMs that need money more than we do.
“As far as money for the RM, I don’t think we’re really hurting. I don’t think that should be a priority anyway. No matter how many tax dollars are coming in, if you divide them by the quarters in the RM, it’s not going to amount to a lot.
“I just found that the outfit that was going around was very pushy. They weren’t the company, they were just an outfit paid to sign up leases.”
Rene Poelzer provided the other side of the argument.
“I look at it totally differently,” said Poelzer. “If you are a progressive community, you don’t want to restrict possible income. This is a $300 million project, which will bring more tax income than all of our land taxes in the RM.
“The government of Saskatchewan wants 1.6 million megawatts by 2030, so it’s going to be done someplace. It’s green energy. We’re all comparing ourselves to Moosomin. The new technology is much better. Once you start putting in bylaws and restrictions, you also restrict other innovations and creativity.”
He said the 100 metre height bylaw isn’t realistic, and suggested that the reference to 1.6 km in the bylaw isn’t worded properly to actually prevent wind turbines from being that distance from a home.
“This country’s built on innovation and creativity. You can’t stifle that,” he said.
“I used to work in oil and gas for 10 years. I had to deal on the regulatory side, dealing with regulations,” Kyla Poelzer said at the meeting.
“When I read the bylaw it wasn’t clear. Kudos to the council for actually putting a bylaw in place. It’s very important. But it doesn’t address issues of noise, light, and decomissioning. And that’s something I’d like council to consider, to do a little more research. You want to have the regulations in place to deal with any issues.
“If you have really clear regulations, it can go a long way, because they absolutely have to follow them. I’m glad that there is a bylaw, but I would like to see a little more clarification on noise, light, and specifically decomissioning.”
One ratepayer asked why the RM would have a limit of 1.6 km from a house, suggesting the restriction could kill the project.
Another ratepayer pointed out that the restriction protects people who own an acreage or farm and do not want a wind turbine ruining their view.
Reeve Murray Reid pointed out that the bylaw as currently written doesn’t actually provide the protection as intended.
Council member Monica Ruhland said the financial impact of the wind turbines could be helpful for many farm families.
“Speaking personally, and not as a member of council, but as a landowner and a young farmer in the area, agriculture is very important in our RM and it can be difficult at times,” she said.
“We had hail that came through on July 21. If you had a turbine on one of your quarters that guaranteed you revenue of $47 to $95 an acre every year, if that was something you could count on, that would be a very important asset to any operation, which is a business. It is a consideration for everyone to think about, especially as a young farmer hopefully with a long future of farming in the area.”
Reeve Murray Reid said following the meeting that he was happy with how the meeting went.
“There are people with strong feelings on both sides of the issue, and I’m happy that people were able to express their opinions and they let us know we have some work to do on that bylaw.”
He said he’s personally in favor of the wind farm proposal, as he believes it would have a huge impact on the area, as well as helping the RM in the long term.
“We’ve seen the impact that a megaproject can have in this area,” he said. “I’ve seen it three times since I was in school. It helps everybody.”
Rene Poelzer said following the meeting that he is personally in favor of the wind farm, but he wants to make sure that whatever happens is fair to everyone.
“We’re probably the largest landholder in the RM. The land they want is near the power lines, and the power lines run right through the middle of our land.
“The idea of wind energy is very good, and Brad Wall and the Saskatchewan Party is pushing this.
“I like the idea of wind power. I’m not in it for money, I’m in it for the betterment of the people.
“We’re negotiating with them, but I still haven’t signed, because I don’t think it’s necessarily fair to everybody. I think it needs to be fair to everybody.
“Financially it’s a no-brainer. There are guys thinking ‘I can put two or three windmills on my property and that’s my retirement income—I can retire on that and I don’t have to sell my land to my kids—I can give it to them.’ There are a lot of benefits to it, and there are a lot of drawbacks. We have to look at both sides and come up with a total solution.”
Daryl Williamson said following the meeting that he still has concerns.
“They knocked on my door in June,” he said. “My first thought was I don’t want them, but I let him come in and give his speech. I found that the lease outfit was very pushy and telling me that people had signed up who I knew hadn’t signed up.”
He said his main objection is the aesthetics of the wind turbines. “My family has lived in the same place for 100 years,” he said. “There aren’t too many pretty places in southeast Saskatchewan, but we happen to live in one,” he said. “I can’t see ruining it with wind towers.
“We’ve got enough impact here. We’ve got potash mines, we’ve got power poles, we’ve got oil, we’ve got seismograph. I don’t know how much more impact we need on the environment.”
He said he would like to see the RM keep the restriction of wind towers being sited one mile away from any household, unless the homeowner agrees to the wind tower being there.
“Keep some regulations, so if people don’t want them, they don’t have to look at them. There are a lot of acreages in our area, and the guys with the acreages aren’t going to get any income from them.”