Land in Kneehill County will soon be home to 48 turbines as NextEra Energy begins construction on the wind farm that has potential to power more than 24,300 homes.
Within the next 30 days or so, construction teams will be digging and pouring foundation for the project that is aimed at full operation by the end of this year.
It has been a long process to finally begin work on the project- Finavera Renewables had submitted the initial applications for the wind farm in early 2009, before NextEra Energy Canada purchased rights to the project.
Wind farm projects, such as the Wintering Hills farm located southeast of Drumheller, go through a long consultations with landowners and local residents to address concerns about development.
“There were a few people that had questions and issues with it,” said Josie Hernandez, NextEra Energy Resources (the American parent company of NextEra Energy Canada). “Everything has been resolved.”
In May of 2009, CBC Calgary reported three families near Three Hills had opposed the Ghost Pine project, taking their fight to a local appeal board.
The three families were concerned four of the 48 turbines would be too loud and placed too close to their homes.
“That has always been an issue, ‘Am I going to be able to hear it, will it affect my day-to-day life?’,” Hernandez said.
“We do a lot of studies surrounding the sound and we set back these turbines so it does not interfere with their life.”
Hernandez says they have pegged a spot to have the turbines live, and it has been agreed upon.
“They should find that they (turbines) are actually quite quiet,” she said.
“I think we were able to meet our expectations and work with all stakeholders involved to come to an agreement,” said Hernandez.
Hernandez said there are three major reasons why Kneehill County was picked as the home for the Ghost Pine project: obviously first is wind resource (8 mile per hour winds are needed to turn the 262 feet tall blades), availability of moving electricity out of the farm, and the availability of land and cooperation of landowners.
When construction ends in about 30 days, turbine components will begin arriving and the turbines will be erected.
A ground breaking is planned in the coming months.
Wind turbines work on the same principal as a child’s pinwheel. When wind blows against the blades, it rotates. The blades are connected to a drive shaft inside the head of the tower. This turns the generator which generates electricity.
It uses no water, does not pollute the air, and allows surrounding land to remain in agricultural use.
NextEra Energy Inc. is headquartered in Juno Beach, Florida. This is their first start-to-finish wind farm project in Canada.