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Weather tower to gather data for possible wind energy project

The County of St. Paul has approved a permit to erect a meteorological tower on private land in the St. Lina area, one of the first steps in determining if a wind energy project is viable.

The County of St. Paul has approved a permit to erect a meteorological tower on private land in the St. Lina area, one of the first steps in determining if a wind energy project is viable.

Clym Atkin of LandSolutions confirmed to the Journal the Calgary-based company, acting as land agent, had applied for a permit on behalf of NextEra Energy Canada to erect a tower on SE-19--61-10 W4M to collect weather data pertaining to wind speed, temperature, humidity, rain and weather conditions that may impact a proposed wind development project.

"It's a search finding mission to see which way the wind blows," Atkin said, adding it's a "very preliminary" step in determining if such a wind project is feasible in the area.

"Before developers construct a wind farm, they first measure the wind resource on a prospective site by erecting temporary measurement towers. Typically, they mount anemometers (wind meters) at a range of heights and they log the wind speed data at frequent intervals (e.g. every ten minutes) for a period of up to five years," according information from LandSolutions. "That data allow the developers to determine if the site is economically viable for a wind farm, and to choose wind turbines, optimized for the local wind speed distribution."

The meteorological tower is to be erected on land owned by Pine Meadows Hutterite Colony. George Tschetter confirmed the colony is supportive of a wind energy project and would be agreeable to wind turbines being erected on some of the colony's land in the St. Lina area if NextEra decided the project was feasible.

"It's like an oil lease on your property," Tschetter said. "They need more land because it's a big project. We are still waiting for the contract to come."

A NextEra spokesperson explained the erection of a tower to collect weather data is literally no more than a fact-finding mission at this point in time.

"This is a very early stage development project and we do not have the meteorological data to propose further details about what we might propose in the future," Tara Tyson, communications specialist with NextEra Energy Resources, said Monday.

NextEra Energy Canada, which is a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Resources, LLC, an American-owned company with head offices in Florida, has 51 wind turbines operating as part of its Ghost Pine Wind Energy Center in Kneehill County in southern Alberta. Commercial operation of that project began in 2010.

At least two landowners in the St. Lina area are not onside with a wind energy project in the neighbourhood. Tanya and Real Dubeau, who run a 3,000-colony honeybee operation in the area, have filed an appeal to the county's development permit for the tower, worried over what it might lead to.

"We just don't know the effects on the honeybees. There's no study done specifically on the impact to honeybees. Over the years, we've heard different types of things around the impact of vibrations and wind currents from these windmills. We really don't want our honeybee operation to be the guinea pig."

Dubeau said she felt frustrated by the process, having to pay $200 to file an appeal against something that has the potential to not only impact the couple's livelihood, but also to change to the landscape forever if the turbines are eventually erected in the area.

The issue got less than a minute of attention at last Tuesday's County of St. Paul meeting when Coun. Laurent Amyotte requested it be added to the agenda. Reeve Steve Upham said the matter was an in camera issue and so it was not discussed during the public portion of the meeting.

Following the meeting, Upham told the Journal the permit for the tower was issued in accordance with the county's land use bylaw and any appeal filed would go to the development appeal board for discussion.

This isn't the first time a wind energy company has expressed interest in the St. Paul area. In 2016, Northlands Energy Inc. was exploring opportunities for a wind turbine project through the Shamrock Valley/Chicken Hill area. Some landowners went public in their opposition to the initiative in an attempt to derail the proposed energy project. The status of this proposed initiative is unknown.

"We did hear about this; however, no permits were ever applied for," County CAO Sheila Kitz said of that particular proposal.

Clare Gauvreau

About the Author: Clare Gauvreau

Clare Gauvreau has worked for the St. Paul Journal for more than 20 years as a journalist, editor and publisher. In her role today as newspaper publisher she continues to contribute news and feature articles on a regular basis.
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