EDP Renewables is currently planning the installation of Sharp Hills Wind Farm in Special Area 3 and Special Area 4 of south-eastern Alberta, located at approximately latitude 51 longitude -111 (Figure 2). The Special Areas are comparable to municipalities of southeast Alberta. EDP renewables chose this site for development based on the regulations set out by the Hydro and Electric Energy Act based on approval, permits, critical transmission infrastructure and connections to other systems (AUC, 2018). The study area of this project consists of these two Special Areas along with the addition of Special Area 2 (Figure 1). 300 km east of Calgary and 200 km north of Medicine Hat, Special Areas 2, 3 and 4 are located in the prairie ecozones of Alberta (Figure 2). Their governing body, the Special Areas Board, is responsible for roads, water, emergency services, economic development, agricultural conservation strategies etc. Special Areas 2, 3 and 4 consist of approximately 2,068,800.4 hectares of municipal land and 1,052,182.7 hectares of public land, a large portion of which is leased for agricultural purposes. These Special Areas also contain a total of 4,499 residents, 16 hamlets, 11 schools, 3 private airstrips, 3 hospitals, and 1 provincial park. In addition, wetlands, bodies of water, reserve land, important wildlife habitat, and native grassland communities can be found throughout these Special Areas.
These Special Areas also contain rare grassland species, such as the plains rough fescue (Festuca hallii). In addition, multiple bat, amphibian, and bird species, including the federally endangered ferruginous hawk (Buteo regalis), inhabit this area. Wind farms within close proximity to the electricity grid are more economically viable, as the electricity they generate is more accessible. Ideally, a wind farm is within 2000 m of an electricity grid (Tegou et al., 2010). Special Areas 2, 3, and 4 are not located within 2000 m of multiple electrical substations, and thus the electricity grid. Therefore, the EDP Renewables wind farm site within the Special Areas may not be the most suitable area for the installation of a wind farm. Aside from its distance from an electrical grid, this study area is an ideal location for the development of wind farms due to its minimal urbanization and significant agricultural land present.
Figure 1: Southeastern Alberta with study areas Special Area No. 2, Special Area No. 3, and Special Area No.4.
Figure 2: The study areas of Special Area No. 2, Special Area No. 3, and Special Area No.4 within Alberta, Canada