By Cole Parkinson
As renewable energy continues to push forward as an effective power source, the Municipal District of Taber continues to explore placing projects on their owned lands.
With previous discussion posing council’s hesitation to put solar projects on any M.D. owned lands, they were a little more open to having wind projects placed.
With the issue brought back to council, they were given an update as to how the policy was moving forward after changes were made from the last policy meeting held in June.
“The main change in this is, I split it between the type of development with wind and solar versus the type of land it was, native or tame. I clarified which developments may or may not be acceptable,” said Brian Peers, director of municipal lands and leases at the M.D.’s policy meeting on August 7.
With the revised policy, the entire document was reviewed by the M.D.’s contracted planner, Bonnie Brunner, at the Oldman River Regional Commission.
Following the changes made to the policy, it now clarifies appropriate siting of wind and solar projects including differences when siting on native grasslands, tame grasslands and cultivation.
In the policy, it states ‘wind development may constitute a large landscape footprint but on an individual tower basis, may demonstrate a relatively light surface impact. Wind energy development on M.D. of Taber native grass, tame grass or cultivated lands may be acceptable uses.’
It also states that any wind project would be subject to development permit approval along with any provincial and federal approvals.
Solar energy development on the other hand, ‘will not be permitted on M.D. of Taber native grasslands.’
“I tend to agree with the wind and the solar. Wind is one per quarter where solar is thousands,” said Reeve Brian Brewin.
Peers agreed that both projects, while delivering similar products, have vastly different effects on the environment.
“It’s certainly a different impact,” added Peers.
While Brewin was more in favour of seeing wind energy on their lands, other councillors didn’t agree.
“I’m concerned about the wind energy on native grasses,” said Coun. Leavitt Howg.
Coun. John Turcato also echoed similar comments from previous meetings as he stated he wasn’t in favour of seeing any projects on their native owned grasslands.
Only allowing one of the types of renewable energy projects was also a concern.
“I know the footprint is different but why are we allowing one type of development and not the other type?” asked Deputy Reeve Merrill Harris.
One of the obvious concerns council has brought forward in relation to any renewable energy projects is the reclamation process if any of the companies go bankrupt.
With the M.D. still dealing with abandoned oil wells throughout the region, the need to protect themselves from the same thing happening, which is a big factor.
The policy, therefore, has plenty of wording about how the reclamation process will work.
“Companies looking to develop on M.D. owned lands have to have a comprehensive reclamation plan and to provide a surety bond or an established trust that will provide insurances there will be sufficient funds to reclaim. One thing in addition to most places we see, with the Enmax one, they did put a $75,000 bond for reclamation,” explained Peers.
Council was still concerned about any type of reclamation as the rules around reclamation requirements for renewable energy projects from the Alberta government are still a little unclear.
“It’s the reclamation that scares me. Look at the problem we’re having with orphan wells right now and the lack of money. That’s something they have been putting money away for over years with a reclamation requirement and it’s still not happening. This is something with no reclamation requirement from the Alberta government,” said Turcato.
While there are no current reclamation requirements, Peers stated that work has begun on developing them.
A motion was made to recommend the policy to council and was passed unanimously.