Wheatland County has scheduled a public hearing to gather feedback regarding a potential land rezoning from agricultural to energy sector.
Bylaw 202114, officially being referred to as the Wheatland Wind Project (WWP), received first reading during the regular council meeting on July 13.
Due to the nature of the project, council will hear public opinion and how it may affect ratepayers before proceeding with the rezoning and development.
County Reeve Amber Link explained during the public hearing, impacts to ratepayers that were not considered by the Alberta Utilities Commission will be heard.
“We are extremely limited in what we can consider during that public hearing, and what we can hear,” she said. “The Alberta Utilities Commission has jurisdiction over renewable energy development, and because this development already has an approval under AUC.”
The redesignated land, if the bylaw were to pass, would total roughly 471 acres in order to allow for the development of a Wind Energy Conversion System (WECS) approximately 122.4 megawatts in size.
The land located 20 to 30 km southeast of Drumheller would house 24 turbines, a substation, an operations and maintenance facility, and any associated infrastructure.
According to the report for first reading received by council, WWP received AUC approvals in September 2018, noting that “approval of the project is in the public interest, having regard to the social, economic, and other effects of the project, including its effect on the environment.”
Link added before a decision is made on the development, council will weigh both the advantages of constructing local renewable energy sources, as well as any potential impacts.
“There can be pros and cons to any development … some of the things that municipalities consider is just things like even how it impacts the sight lines of the county,” she said.
“I have heard from ratepayers where development like this can contribute to sustainability of family farms as well, because it can diversify their income.”
Link explained there are already several wind turbines in the area of the county where development is proposed, and WWP would contribute to that development.
She further explained now that a public hearing has been set for the discussion before second reading, council will not be engaging with ratepayers, the public, or the developer until after the meeting.
“The purpose for that is we want all councillors to be considering exactly the same information when we hold the public hearing, and when we’re considering second and third reading,” she said.
The public hearing is scheduled for Aug. 24.
John Watson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times