July 13, 2024 July 13, 2024

Solar project near Fort Macleod faces opposition

Posted on 4 March 2024 by Ryan Dahlman

By Delon Shurtz

Alberta Newspaper Group

A giant solar project proposed for construction less than two kilometres away from Fort Macleod has the town and MD of Willow Creek worried about the negative impact the development would have on the area.

The town and MD do not welcome the proposed Neoen Jumbo Solar Project, and earlier this week they signed a joint letter expressing their “serious concerns,” about the 178-megawatt industrial-scale solar facility and 150-megawatt hour battery energy storage system on 1,500 acres of land only 1.6 km west of town.

Fort Macleod mayor Brent Feyter says the town is primarily opposed to the project because it would be installed within the town’s and MD’s Intermunicipal Development Plan area. It would also be adjacent to many country residents and near the airfield property, as well as the “highway and gateway to our community.”

A news release from the MD indicates the Intermunicipal Development Plan identifies the area for significant future development and as a significant transportation corridor given the nearby intersection of three highways, including CANAMEX Trade Corridor, and the nearby railway corridor.

“The council of the Municipal District of Willow Creek dedicated significant resources and consulted extensively with local landowners to negotiate the intermunicipal plan with the Town of Fort Macleod for the purpose of ensuring that future development within this area would be compatible with the future growth of the town,” MD reeve Maryanne Sandberg says in the release.

“Despite this rigorous planning process, the Neoen Jumbo Solar Project has imposed itself over local planning concerns without full consideration of the impacts to future development in our community.”

Sandberg says the plan prohibits certain developments, such as confined feeding operations, to ensure future development aligns with long-term plans. Despite that, the town and MD face the imposition of an industrial-scale solar project if it is approved by the Alberta Utilities Commission.

“This is akin to having wind turbines installed in Nose Hill Park in Calgary, and it is unacceptable to us,” Sandberg says.

Feyter says development would impact numerous nearby property owners, which is unnecessary because he believes there are other sites that would be better suited to the project, with less impact on people.

“Within town limits we would be hard-pressed to have an equal amount of land available,” Feyter says. “Within the MD there has got to be better-suited available lands. Within the province, for sure. I would suggest the province should be positioning or identifying lands that could be available in consultation with land owners.”

In addition to the joint letter signed by the town and MD, Feyter says the town has had one meeting with the developer and attended a recent open house. He says the councils hope to have additional communication with the developer on its desire to develop solar projects in southern Alberta.

And like the MD, the town plans to communicate its opposition to the project to the developer and Alberta Utilities Commission.

Feyter acknowledges that the town would likely benefit indirectly during construction of the solar project, but there hasn’t been any official discussion on whether there would be any direct benefits to the town.

The France-based company, Neoen, did not reply to the Lethbridge Herald’s request for comment.

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