Committee to study merits of roof-mounted wind turbines

A city committee will look at whether roof-mounted wind turbines should be encouraged.

A city committee will look at whether roof-mounted wind turbines should be encouraged.

There has been growing interest in harnessing the wind to produce electricity. However, the city’s existing land use bylaws do not allow for wind turbines as a permitted or a discretionary use.

To determine whether it’s worthwhile changing the land use bylaw to create a set of regulations for wind turbines, Parkland Community Planning Services wants to undertake a pilot project to look at the latest wind technologies.

The municipal planning commission voted unanimously to endorse the idea, and planners will now form a steering committee to research roof-mounted wind turbines.

Planner Tara Lodewyk said they want to test a turbine in a residential area and at another site in a commercial or industrial area. A partnership with a wind turbine supplier will be sought and potential locations for a test run narrowed down. A budget will be drawn up and taken to city council, which must give the pilot project final approval before it can go ahead.

Lodewyk said part of the project will involve sifting through the often-conflicting information on the impacts of wind turbines. Some say they pose a threat to birds and bats; others say there is no problem. Opinions differ on how much noise they create as well.

“It’s really inconclusive — the information that’s out there.”

If given the green light, the steering committee hopes to have wind turbines in place long enough to see how they perform during all four seasons. At the end of the study period, a report will be prepared with recommendations on whether bylaws should be changed to allow the turbines.

Lodewyk said if approved by council, the project will be used to determine if there will be operational concerns, such as vibration in the building below. Planners will also gather public input on the appearance of the turbines, gauge support while at the same time educating people on wind power potential.

Commission member Doug Janssen wanted to see more “hard costs” for wind-powered systems laid out for residents to give them a sense of whether turbines are worth pursuing.

Paul Goranson, the city’s Development Services director, said it can be expected that people will ask if wind power is economically viable as a power source. “Right now, the answer is no.”

Commission member and city manager Craig Curtis said he also wants planners to look into the potential for pole-mounted wind turbines in industrial areas.

Turbines mounted on poles 10 to 20 metres are more common and have been allowed in industrial areas in some municipalities. Laebon Homes has received Red Deer County approval to install a 10-kilowatt turbine on a 12-metre pole next to its head office in Burnt Lake Industrial Park.

Curtis does not expect it to take as much work or require a year-long pilot project to review the feasibility of industrial park turbines.

The steering committee is expected to bring a proposal for council approval in time for budget deliberations early next year.

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com

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