Saskatchewan Environment Minister Dustin Duncan has approved a large-scale wind energy project in the province, the first of its kind to be approved under The Environmental Assessment Act.
Located south of Herbert, the Blue Hill Wind Energy Project will be developed and operated by Algonquin Power Co. (a subsidiary of Algonquin Power & Utilities Corp.) and is expected to include up to 56 wind turbines.
The turbines will add 177 megawatts of wind energy for SaskPower customers – enough energy to power more than 70,000 average Saskatchewan homes. Construction is anticipated to begin in 2019, with possible service as early as 2021.
“This new wind energy project demonstrates our government’s commitment to renewable energy and greenhouse gas emission reductions, both clear goals in our comprehensive provincial climate change strategy,” Duncan said.
Prairie Resilience, the province’s made-in-Saskatchewan climate change strategy, is designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, prepare for changing conditions, and protect people and communities through resilience and readiness.
The strategy includes a target to reduce emissions from electrical power generation by 40 per cent by 2030, with a significant focus on wind energy. The Blue Hill Project will be the seventh privately developed wind power generation project in Saskatchewan.
The project site is located outside of the avoidance zones identified in the Wildlife Siting Guidelines for Saskatchewan Wind Energy Projects. Algonquin selected this location on cultivated agricultural land in order to avoid impacting native prairie grassland and important wildlife habitat. The company also conducted rigorous wildlife surveys as part of the environmental impact assessment (EIA) and has proposed appropriate mitigation to reduce potential impacts to migratory birds, bats, and habitat.
Those mitigation measures include:
- avoiding sensitive areas when siting project infrastructure and temporary workspaces;
- providing adequate setback from Reed Lake to help reduce potential bird and bat collisions;
- burying electrical lines where feasible;
- installation of transmission line bird diverters;
- the use of appropriate lighting and turbine spacing; and
- adhering to minimum wind cut-in speeds of turbines.
Algonquin will adhere to the Ministry of Environment’s Adaptive Management Guidelines for Saskatchewan Wind Energy Projects, which include standards for post-construction bird and bat fatality monitoring and mitigation. The guidelines provide regulatory clarity to support responsible wind energy development and operations in Saskatchewan, ensuring that wildlife and habitat impacts are satisfactorily avoided, minimized, and offset to meet compliance requirements.
“Algonquin has made extensive efforts to ensure the project meets or exceeds the needs of stakeholders,” Algonquin Power & Utilities Corp. Chief Executive Officer Ian Robertson said. “We look forward to continuing this work as we transition to the next phase of the project.”
Throughout the EIA, Algonquin engaged with stakeholders, including local communities and environmental non-governmental organizations, in order to provide information about the project to address any concerns.
A copy of the Blue Hill Wind Energy Project decision can be found at www.publications.gov.sk.ca/deplist.cfm?d=66&c=5187.
The Adaptive Management Guidelines for Saskatchewan Wind Energy Projects can be found at http://www.publications.gov.sk.ca/details.cfm?p=90235.