Friday 11 October 2013

Albertans losing no sleep over wind power
8 Oct 2013

Controversy that has marked Ontario's rapid growth in wind power has been largely absent in Alberta, where the industry has operated for two decades and now has the third-largest installed generation capacity of the green energy source in Canada.

Wind farm operators in the Western province have had to work to solve environmental problems, notably bat and bird deaths, which have led to operational changes at some developments.

But public complaints about facilities, which are concentrated in the breezy and sparsely populated southern part of the province best known for fossil fuel development, are almost non-existent, according to recent research into what is seen as one of the most commercially viable forms of alternative energy.

That is in sharp contrast to Ontario, where groups have been established to oppose wind power and publicize potential human-health effects of facilities near homes. Government policies there aimed at promoting green energy have led to brisk activity in wind farm construction.

"We're not seeing the same type of organized push-back in Alberta", said Tim Weis, director of renewable energy and efficiency policy for the Pembina Institute, a non-profit environmental think tank.

Some of the wind farms in Alberta, especially in the southwest, are relatively close to population centres. Public attitudes may be more accepting because many Albertans already have experience living close to conventional energy facilities, Mr. Weis said. In addition, virtually all commercial wind developments in the province are on privately owned land.

Mr. Weis contributed to a Pembina study this summer that found the Alberta Utilities Commission, the provincial regulator governing commercial-scale wind farms, has not received a single complaint related to the facilities since 2000 in 31,000 "contacts" with the public. wind farm operators reported 10 complaints. By contrast, the oil-and-gas regulator has fielded more than 200 complaints per year about fossil fuel operations affecting residents.

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