The rural county in Alberta that brought Canada its biggest solar farm to date is at it again, with word this week that it is seeking regulatory approval for a 500-megawatt wind farm.
A year ago, Denmark’s Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners confirmed a C$500-million investment that would allow Calgary-based Greengate Power to proceed with the 400-MW Travers Solar Energy Project in Vulcan County. This week, the county announced its application to the Alberta Utilities Commission for the Buffalo Plains Wind Farm, an 83-unit development with individual turbines that would approach the height of the iconic Calgary Tower, CBC reports.
Like the Travers project, Buffalo Plains will be located near Lomond, about 175 kilometres southeast of Calgary, the national broadcaster says.
“The height of the tower itself is about 115 metres and the blade is about 170 metres in diameter. To put that in comparison, the Calgary Tower is 191 metres tall,” said Vulcan County Reeve Jason Schneider. “The towers have definitely grown substantially,” and “they’re producing three times the power ,as well.”
Vulcan is also the site of Blackspring Ridge, the country’s biggest wind farm when it was built in 2014, CBC states.
Schneider said the project will bring badly-needed tax revenue to the community, along with 300 jobs during construction and 10 to 15 once the turbines go into operation.
“For rough numbers, when the Blackspring Ridge project came online, it was about 20% 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% of our tax base. So it’s big numbers and they definitely change things.”
Although CBC doesn’t mention it, Vulcan is also one of the Alberta communities that have discovered the difference between calculating a commercial tax bill and successfully collecting it. In December 2019, Chief Administrative Officer Nels Peterson was “preparing his municipality for a $400,000 hit to tax revenue, or 2.5% of the annual operating budget,” after the province tried to cut fossils’ property taxes by 35%, the Globe and Mail reported at the time. The tax rebate for shallow gas well developers was expected to cost cash-strapped rural municipalities C$20 million per year.
Schneider said the ultimate decision to approve the new wind farm will be up to the province. “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 told CBC. “Ultimately, the Alberta Utility Commission is the one that kind of makes the final decision.”