Tech & Science

Massive Calgary-area solar project rejected in favour of wildlife conservation

a large solar projects It was proposed to be built on a parcel south of Calgary near a lake listed as one of Canada’s most important areas for birds, but was rejected by the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC).

Frank Lake is an important wetland for hundreds of bird species, from ducks to trumpeter swans to peregrine falcons. The wetlands east of the High River are An important bird habitat in Canada.

According to the AUC’s decision announced Thursday, the commission is not confident that the project’s overall benefits will outweigh its negative effects.

“Foothills Solar has submitted that the project is in the public interest for a variety of reasons, such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions and other local economic benefits… however, the potential for the project to result in high bird mortality and , the impact of the project on the Frank Lake IBA and the social and environmental values ​​it represents is unacceptable,” said the AUC report.

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The Alberta Conservation Society said solar development is necessary for Alberta to move closer to its net zero carbon goal, but development should not come at the expense of vulnerable species and habitats. is not.

“Frank Lake is internationally recognized as important for bird nesting and migratory birds,” said Ruiping Luo, AWA Conservation Specialist.

Luo said AWA supports placing renewable energy projects on brownfield or industrial sites.

“There are a lot of areas that are already disrupted. There are a lot of footprints from previous developments that could be reused for roads, oil, gas, and stuff like that. have already been lost and they should be subject to new development,” Luo said.

“It’s a crazy time with lots of wind and solar projects being proposed. It’s the Wild West,” said Cliff Wallis, president of Cottonwood Consultants. He was an expert witness at a public hearing representing a local landowner group.

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Wallis said such projects would take place on private property but would involve public resources such as wildlife.

“The birds that use the area and the pronghorns that migrate in those areas, the farmland issue – these are all public interests that need to be discussed,” he said.

He advocates for comprehensive policies in Alberta to deal with the boom in solar and wind projects.

“We need to have that discussion. Do we want thresholds to protect certain classes of farmland from these things? Do we want pronghorn migration routes to be respected? Should it be near where it’s being used? Now it’s just ‘Let’s develop these as soon as possible’. That’s the policy,” Wallis said.

“There is an incredible diversity of birds nesting in the Frank Lakes area. It’s a cacophony of spring sounds.”

Livingstone-Macleod NDP candidate Kevin Van Tighem supports the decision. A former manager of Banff National Park said a “significant number” of farmers and those concerned about wildlife in the area were concerned about the project.

“We definitely need to continue expanding the diversity of our energy sources in this state, and there are smart ways to do it, but without compromising the values ​​that matter to us. , you can do both if you have a good regulatory body that makes key decisions,” said Van Tighem.

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The 150-megawatt Foothills solar project will Elemental Energy Renewables Inc.

© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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