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Wind Concerns group poses questions at Elemental Energy open house

A small but interested crowd of area residents toured a dozen panels bearing maps and information on the proposed Elemental Energy wind turbine project in the Northern Valley, July 18.
Elemental Energy executive vice president John Turner (second from right) and his team faced a multitude of pointed questions from Wind Concerns spokesman Mark Mallett (grey hoodie) and his group, who came to get answers about the proposed wind turbine project in the Northern Valley area. / Vicki Brooker photo

ELK POINT – A small but interested crowd of area residents toured a dozen panels bearing maps and information on the proposed Elemental Energy wind turbine project in the Northern Valley area the afternoon of July 18, with company staff on hand to explain everything from the company’s choice of site to the preliminary schedule for the project, and to answer any questions they might have.

Asked why wind turbines were the choice, rather than solar panels, one of the company spokesmen replied, stating there are 3,500 acres of solar panels in southern Alberta taking up good farmland. A turbine, on the other hand, only requires a small piece of land.

The open house was part of the second of five phases in the project’s preliminary schedule, with wind data collection, environmental review and the beginning of impact studies now complete, before the company submits their application to the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC).

If AUC approves the application, in early 2024, the company will seek municipal permission from the County of St. Paul and the County of Two Hills, and undertake the detailed engineering. Late in 2024, the fourth phase would see major equipment procurement and the beginning of construction, with commercial operations coming in 2026.

Throughout the five phases, the company's information states there will be ongoing community engagement.

Roughly half an hour into the open house, a large delegation from a group known as Wind Concerns arrived. The group is opposed to the project, and is led by Mark Mallett, who assured the organizers, “We are not here to destroy the meeting. We appreciate that you are here and listening to us. Our concern has to do with property values and health issues. We are not here with pitchforks and torches, we are here with concerns, and we have 23 years of research behind us.”

One of the group’s concerns, Mallett said, was that Elemental Energy had allegedly not responded to two letters they had sent outlining some of the issues.

In response, the group was told the open house was meant to hear individual questions, and organizers were not prepared for a public forum.

After Mallett inquired about the Elemental Energy project shut down by the AUC near High River because of high bird mortality, noting that the planned Northern Valley location is in a migratory bird area and the summer grounds of federally protected endangered whooping cranes, the group was told, “We can continue or end this event. We are not participating in a forum. We have a plan and we have a team and we are not comfortable with this.”

Stating that, “If you don’t answer a question from one person, it looks like you’re not prepared,” Mallett cited information from the World Health Organization about adverse health effects and said, “We’re asking serious questions, and we’re telling you we don’t want this in our neighborhood.”

“We know you have concerns,” a member of the Elemental Energy team acknowledged, “and we would love to have conversations one on one, with the others having the opportunity to answer questions as well.”

John Turner, Elemental Energy’s executive vice president of public affairs, came forward to clarify several aspects of the company’s efforts to this point. “We have not submitted regulatory applications. We do not have signed contracts with landowners. We are moving the project ahead, but it is still a concept.”

Having heard those responses, many of those present opted to individually ask questions of the Elemental team members, and to share their concerns in person during the rest of the evening session, which stretched past the original 8 p.m. time period, as attendees took the opportunity to get the answers they sought.

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