Left-right, M.D. of Smoky River resident Cheryl Isert, M.D. Of Smoky River Councillor Andy Trudeau and Northern Sunrise County Reeve Corinna Williams chat with one of the ABO Wind representatives regarding the proposed wind project. Emily Plihal, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

ABO Wind Canada Ltd. held an open house on April 5 at the Falher Regional Recreation Complex to present its plans for a proposed wind project in the M.D. of Smoky River No. 130 in northern Alberta.

Hundreds of concerned residents attended the open house to voice their concerns and have their questions addressed by the multiple company representatives.

Local concerned resident Guy Beaudoin, who is also a former Falher town councillor, says he was happy with the format of the open house, but there are still a number of questions left unanswered.

ABO Wind’s Social Impact and Engagement Lead David Berrade, left, is pictured with M.D. of Smoky River resident Guy Beaudoin.

“It was a very good turnout, which is always a good thing when a project or development with long-term impact is proposed for the area,” says Beaudoin.

“I liked the format as it was non-confrontational. I personally had some important questions answered but also had some which lack to true or definite response,” he adds.

The wind power project plans will include a 160-megawatt renewable wind project, inclusive of between 25 and 27 wind turbines, that stretches between Falher and the village of Nampa, and is set to help produce enough clean energy to power roughly 65,000 homes.

“I figured it was going to be more like an actual meeting style,” says Rene Houle, who owns an acreage in the area the site is proposed to be erected.

“Our main concern is the noise factor, but it probably won’t affect us much since the windmills are east of our house. The staff were able to address the concerns that were thrown at them from the observation I took in.”

The Smoky River Wind Project is currently in the early planning stages, with ABO Wind’s anticipation to submit their application to the Alberta Utilities Commission in the second half of 2023.

Although many concerns were addressed, some vocalized long-term residual concerns. There are concerns about affects on neurodivergent community, resale value of property within the area the wind turbines are proposed, and affects on migratory fowl and other wildlife, just to name a few.

“I’m more convinced now that property values will drop, that at least some people will find it unbearable to live beside,” says M.D. resident Michelle Desaulniers.

“Those landowners who have agreed to the sites don’t live there (with the exception of one, but it is likely his family will move before the project is complete.) They were not able to tell me what type of turbines would be used; they don’t know yet. It is my understanding that there should be a reclamation bond in place, but at 10 per cent of the project cost, it really wouldn’t cover enough of the abandonment costs.”

Although there are many concerns left to be addressed, there is promise of some economic benefits to the region, which will also be considered when debating the acceptance of the project. Though not confirmed, there was projected municipal tax injection of multi-millions per year should this project be completed. This injection could greatly help the region that was shafted by other companies through the last multiple years, companies who did not pay their substantial municipal tax bills, leaving the onus on ratepayers.

Two representatives from ABO Wind addressed participants of the open house as they entered the Falher Regional Recreation Complex.

ABO Wind’s Social Impact and Engagement Lead, David Berrade says the economic and societal impact could benefit not only the region, but also the province.

“The Smoky River Wind Project will have considerable positive societal impact in both the immediate area and the province as a whole,” explains Berrade.

“There will be job opportunities throughout construction and many of the goods and services needed will be provided from local vendors. The project also offers an opportunity for the region to establish itself as a leader in all energy forms and signal that the region welcomes significant investments of all types,” he adds.

Berrade explains the company held its open house to allow individuals to gather information, ask questions, express their concerns, and be part of discussions to develop an informed opinion about the project.

If you have any questions, please call ABO Wind’s Social Impact and Engagement Lead, David Berrade by phone (587) 576-5339 or by email at dave.berrade @abo-wind.com

By Emily Plihal, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Apr 14, 2023

This item reprinted with permission from   South Peace News   High Prairie, Alberta

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