Thousands of acres of farm land used for alternative energy

Written by ECA Review

Dear Editor,

Re: Proposed Industrial Solar Power Plant North of Halkirk

As farmers and landowners, we think that the moratorium on new alternative energy start-ups is absolutely necessary. We believe that alternative energy is a good thing but we need a plan going forward. Right now it is like the wild wild west out here.

The project that impacts us the most directly is a 300-acre Industrial Solar Power Plant that will be right next to our house. This project is proposed by the Danish investment company Obton. They claim to be “actively engaging with the community and stakeholders, promoting transparency and collaboration in the project’s development”.

If this project was proposed in the city, the residents would be consulted. But here in rural Alberta, the land has been leased and agreements made, usually with an absentee land owner, before we are even aware that it is happening.

We live in a sparsely populated county, but the solar company has chosen a location that is extremely close to and very visible from eight homes.

We are not against alternative energy, in fact four of the homes impacted are currently using solar energy. As a community, we could help the company choose a more responsible location that would have much less impact on our neighbourhood.

We have spoken with the County of Paintearth and they say that they have no power when Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) is involved.

If our area is any indication of what is happening province-wide, we should be very concerned. We already have a large producing industrial wind power plant with three more in construction or proposed and at least five proposed industrial solar power plants.

This will use 1000’s of acres of farmland. Are we trading food security for the perception that we are producing enough intermittent alternative energy? Is this what we really want?

What are the rules for the responsible use of farmland and how do we learn about them?

Alternative energy sites are quite different than oil and gas leases. Oil and gas leases are relatively small and can be farmed around. If the footprint of a solar power plant was the size of a gas lease it wouldn’t have nearly as much impact on farmland.

Our provincial government made a bold move when they imposed this moratorium. I hope that everyone uses it well to make a responsible plan for going forward with alternative energy development.

Tony & Clara Nibourg
Halkirk, Alta.

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