Shifting Towards Renewable Energy: Wind Farm Siting in Southeastern Alberta Using MCE & Overlay Analyses
EDP Renewables is currently planning the installation of Sharp Hills Wind Farm in southeastern Alberta. In order to properly site a wind farm, multiple environmental and socioeconomic factors must be taken into consideration. This study implements multicriteria evaluations (MCEs) and overlay analyses for the identification of the environmentally and socioeconomically optimal sites for the installation of Sharp Hills Wind Farm. Furthermore, this study evaluates EDP Renewable’s proposed site. The objectives of this study were to identify the environmental and socioeconomic factors for consideration, to design and apply MCEs for the determination of the most suitable sites, to conduct overlay analyses to evaluate EDP Renewables’ proposed wind farm site, and to address the strengths and weaknesses of the final outputs. These objectives were accomplished through the consideration of ecologically valuable land, urban areas, roads, schools, airports, wind speeds, hospitals, tourism facilities, and slope; the assignment of weights using a pairwise comparison method; and the conduction of two MCEs and two overlay analyses. Two additional MCEs were also conducted in which variations of the original constraints were implemented to further investigate the suitability of the Special Areas. The findings of the analyses indicate 2401 km2 within the study area suitable for the installation of a wind farm. Furthermore, it was determined that the site proposed by EDP Renewables does not fall within the identified suitable sites, indicating this corporation may not have accounted for one or more of the environmental and socioeconomic factors considered in this study. After conducting additional iterations of the MCEs, it was determined that the setback distances surrounding the socioeconomic factors primarily resulted in the unsuitability of EDP Renewables’ proposed site.