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07/26/2013

Why Albertans don't file complaints about wind power projects

Windfarm

A file photo of wind turbines near  near Fort Macleod, Alberta. 

Who would have known?

A study by the Pembina Institute reveals that Albertans file very few complaints about wind power projects once those projects are operating.

Across different authorities, very few complaints have been registered, says the study. As wind energy has integrated into the agricultural and energy development landscape in rural Alberta, complaints to authorities have been infrequent and measurably fewer than have been received relating to similar energy activities such as oil and gas operations.

Ben Thibault, legal and policy analyst with the Pembina Institute, and the lead author of the study, points out that Alberta has more than 20 years of experience in developing wind power and “some of the best potential for wind energy generation in the country.”

He says it’s encouraging to see that “Albertans appear to be living near wind turbines with few complaints.”

The study documented the number and nature of official complaints that have been brought to different authorities in Alberta. Among those who were interviewed included the electricity industry regulator, the municipalities where wind farms are located, and the operators of nearly all of the wind turbines in the province.

Very few complaints were found.

Shockingly, the Alberta Utilities Commission, which regulates the sector, “did not find a single complaint against an operating utility-scale wind energy project in its 31,000 contacts received since 2000,” says the study.

Some officials pointed out that some people did raise concerns during initial phases of the projects but few concerns translated into complaints once the turbines started operating.

But were there concerns that residents could not get addressed by officials? The study says further research will be required.

Raveena Aulakh is the Toronto Star's environment reporter. She is intrigued by climate change and its impact, now and long-term, and wildlife. Follow her on Twitter @raveenaaulakh


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