City to test the winds on energy project

A pilot project has been proposed to test roof-mounted wind turbines in Red Deer to determine if they are viable energy savers.

A pilot project has been proposed to test roof-mounted wind turbines in Red Deer to determine if they are viable energy savers.

City planners have been looking into wind turbine potential since 2008 and have prepared a proposal to install a pair of turbines on top of residential and business buildings to measure noise and vibration and gauge public support.

There is growing interest in the potential for harnessing the wind for power in Alberta, but there has not been a lot of practical experience with the technology, said Tara Lodewyk, a planner with Parkland Community Planning Services, on Thursday.

Few municipalities have passed bylaws regulating wind turbines and little is known about their suitability for residential neighbourhoods.

“What we want to do is a demonstration project so people can actually go look at it and develop their own opinions,” said Lodewyk.

Wind power technology is improving constantly but there are many unanswered questions about noise, vibration and potential impacts on wildlife.

“A lot of these studies are inconclusive.”

Lodewyk said one roof-mounted turbine on the market weighs 180 kg (400 pounds) and is 2.1 metres (seven feet) high. A turbine like that would likely require additional roof engineering and measures taken to ensure it doesn’t get blown down. There is also the issue of the potential impact on house insurance costs.

The technology is not cheap. A 1,000-watt turbine that Lodewyk has investigated would cost $8,000, including installation, and would save the homeowner about $130 a year in electricity costs.

Planners are proposing that one wind turbine should be attached to a roof in a residential area, either on a firehall or one of the net-zero energy-efficiency homes already built in Inglewood and Lancaster. Grande Prairie has launched a similar pilot project and has installed a roof-mounted turbine on a residential firehall.

A second turbine could be headed to a downtown location, such as the library, museum or Golden Circle. Westerner Park is another option.

An industrial site is also wanted, but that requirement is expected to be filled by a 12-metre, 10-kilowatt turbine that Laebon Homes plans to erect next to its head office in Burnt Lake Industrial Park. The turbine has already received city approval.

City Hall’s senior management team has endorsed the pilot project, which is now being taken to the municipal planning commission Monday for its input.

“They’re the ones really, at the end of the day, who will decide on the applications that come forward,” she said.

If the commission endorses the pilot project, planners will do a cost analysis and undertake more research, including finding a manufacturer willing to donate or partially donate a unit. A proposal would be brought to council in time for its 2010 budget deliberations, which begin at the end of January.

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