Wind turbines changing the landscape near Halkirk

The sparse forest of 80-metre tall wind turbines being erected near Halkirk is changing the landscape of East-Central Alberta.

The sparse forest of 80-metre tall wind turbines being erected near Halkirk is changing the landscape of East-Central Alberta.

So far, 26 windmill-like devices have been installed on private property between Halkirk and Castor. But by the end of the year, a total of 83 giant turbines will be working on 40 sections of land, creating the largest single wind farm in Alberta, said Jay Walker, the on-site construction manager for Capital Power Corporation.

The Edmonton-based company is behind the $357-million project that will generate 150 megawatts of green energy for Alberta’s power grid whenever the wind blows. (The total cost includes the $33 million Capital Power paid to purchase 100 per cent of the turbine project from Greengate Power in May 2011).

The enormous installation effort requires a daily team of 260 workers, said Walker.

Parts for a single turbine fill nine trucks, which means some 750 truckloads are needed for the entire project. The daily delivery goal is two turbines, or 18 trucks, said Walker, who noted that each tower, with its 42-metre blades, is raised by two cranes before being cemented into the ground at the base.

“The scope of the project is big. It’s a challenge because of the sheer size.”

He mentioned that the monumental installation effort has been drawing spectators. “We’ve had lots of looky-loos.”

The County of Paintearth has fielded mixed reactions. Public concerns about possible noise, visual impact, and avian and bat mortality often come up in connection to wind turbines.

“Whether the concerns are based on science or not, I don’t know. But we look at it from a purely regulatory aspect and Capital Power has been a good company to work with,” said Todd Pawsay, the county’s development officer.

Walker said most of the public comments he’s heard at the site have been positive. “People like it,” he added, with many local residents saying they are pleased their region will be creating a renewable energy resource.

The sparsely-populated flat land of East-Central Alberta land was picked for the “wind quality,” said Walker.

The turbines, which will be operated and maintained by Vestus Wind Systems, will eventually require a staff of 14 technicians, supervisors and administrators to run. Walker said people with those job skills will likely be relocating to the Halkirk area.

The first turbines are expected to become operational next month.

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