To identify important factors to site Sharp Hills Wind Farm.
EDP Renewables plans to develop an extensive wind farm within a rural area of southern Alberta. Due to its relatively flat terrain and low population density, it qualifies as a reasonable area for wind farm development. Despite this, a variety of constraints and criteria are required to be distinguished for the proper planning of such a project, and thus the socioeconomic and environmental traits of the study area must be collected, qualified, and appropriately weighted.
Environmental factors that must be considered include ecological land classifications, wildlife distribution patterns, environmental reserve land, and land topography (Newbold et al., 2015). Socioeconomic factors that must be considered include the attitude of the surrounding community towards wind farms, the noise radii of turbines, the visual impact of turbines, property value impacts, distances to schools, hospitals, residential areas, electricity grids lines, and airports, and the location of other large infrastructure.
In order for sufficient wind speeds, the wind farm cannot be constructed on land with a slope greater than 10% (Baban & Parry, 2001). Enercon E138 4.2 MW turbines, the turbines selected by EDP Renewables for the Sharp Hills Wind Farm, have an International Electrotechnical Commission wind class of IIIA. Thus, the maximum annual average wind speed of the wind farm site must be below 7.5 m/s. Despite this, no retrievable data was found for this study area.
To reduce concerns regarding shadow flicker and noise pollution, turbines must be a minimum of 2000 m from urban areas, and a minimum of 500 m from individual dwellings, schools, and hospitals (Baban & Parry, 2001). To prevent environmental disturbances, turbines must also be at least 400 m from any body of water and at least 1000 m away from ecologically valuable land or wildlife habitat (Baban & Parry, 2001). Furthermore, the wind farm must be sited within 2000 m of an electricity grid, so as to limit economic costs (Tegou, et al., 2010). To protect the economic gain of local tourism, turbines should not be built within 1000 m of tourism facilities (Latinopoulos & Kechagia, 2015). For safety purposes, turbines should be a minimum of 3000 m from airports (Latinopoulos & Kechagia, 2015). Finally, turbines should be built close to roads so as to minimize development costs and improve access, but not close enough that they could cause visual disturbance (Baban & Parry, 2001; Latinopoulos & Kechagia, 2015). Thus, turbines should be a minimum of 150 m from the road, but not further than 10,000 m (Baban & Parry, 2001; Latinopoulos & Kechagia, 2015).
In addition to the constraints mentioned above, multiple criteria will be included in the MCEs. Criteria allow for a relative suitability score to be assigned to cells. The first criterion to be considered is agricultural land quality, in which higher quality land will be viewed as less suitable in order to protect food production. Class 1 agricultural land will be the least suitable and class 7 will be the most suitable. While a constraint mentioned above indicates that slope cannot be greater than 10%, a criterion will indicate that a lower slope is preferable, with 0% being ideal and 10% being the least suitable. This will allow for areas of higher wind speed, and thus greater wind energy potential, to be targeted. While a constraint indicates that the site must be a minimum of 150 m from any road, a criterion will indicate that sites closer to a road are more suitable. This will allow for the identification of sites that are more accessible. Lastly, although there is limited scientific literature available regarding the effects of wind turbines on groundwater, a precautionary approach will be taken. Proximity to aquifers was considered as a criterion, where sites will be more suitable when further away from aquifers so as to avoid the potential disturbance or pollution of groundwater, but was omitted as there was no such retrievable data for the study area.