Facilities – Wind Power
In this decision, the AUC approved the application from Capital Power Generation Services Inc. (“Capital Power”) to construct and operate the Whitla Phase 3 Wind Power Plant (the “Power Plant”).
Capital Power had been granted permission to construct and operate the Whitla Phase 2 Wind Power Pant in Approval 25780-D02-2020. Capital Power applied to amend approval 25780-D02-2020 by adding the 54-megawatt (“MW”) power plant to the Whitla Wind Project (the “Project”).
The Power Plant would consist of 15 Vesta V126 – 3.6-MW turbines, which is the same turbine that was approved for the Whilta Phase 1 Power Plant and the Whitla Phase 2 Power Plant. Power generated by the wind turbines would be connected to the Alberta Interconnected Electrical System (“AIES”) via AltaLink Management Ltd.’s 240-kilovolt transmission system. The Project would not require any new transmission infrastructure. An amendment to the existing connection order was not required.
Capital Power submitted an environmental evaluation report (“EEP”), a renewable energy report (“RER”) provided by Alberta Environment and Parks (“AEP”), a shadow flicker assessment, a noise impact assessment, a participant involvement program, and confirmation that Historical Resources Act approval had been received
The AUC considered this application under sections 11 and 19 of the Hydro and Electric Energy Act (“HEEA”). In accordance with Section 17 of the Alberta Utilities Commission Act (“AUC Act”), the AUC considered whether the Project was in the public interest.
The AUC found that the approval of the Project would be in the public interest. In finding this, the AUC considered the social, economic, environmental, and other effects of the Project.
The AUC determined that the information requirements Rule 007: Applications for Power Plants, Substations, Transmission Lines, Industrial System Designations and Hydro Developments had been met. The AUC also found that the participant involvement program satisfied the requirements of Rule 007.
The AUC noted that the Project had been sited to avoid certain wildlife features of concern. Alberta Environment and Parks (“AEP”) determined that the overall project risk would be moderate based on high wildlife use within the project areas, particularly bats and avian species at risk. The AUC determined that siting the Project entirely on cultivated land and outside of the setback of the Forty Mile Coulee would reduce the impacts to wildlife and wildlife habitat in the Project area.
In its referral report, AEP identified that preliminary raw mortality data from operational wind projects in the area suggested that bat mortality would be high. As a result, AEP anticipated that future operational mitigation would likely be required for the Project. AEP also found that the Project’s bat mortality risk during operation would be high based on survey results, but the risk could be reduced to moderate if Capital Power would commit to pre-emptive operational mitigation measures as described in the referral report.
At the time this decision was issued, Capital Power did not commit to implementing pre-emptive operational mitigation measures. Capital Power did commit to meet with AEP to discuss the results of the first year of the post-construction mortality monitoring program for Whitla Phase 1 Wind Power Plant. It noted that it would be in a better position to assess the merits of implementing pre-emptive operational mitigation at that time. The AUC agreed with this submission and, as a result, included the following condition:
a) Capital Power shall submit a summary of the results of the discussion held with Alberta Environment and Parks, including a description of any pre-emptive operational mitigation measures that Capital Power has agreed to implement. If new mitigation measures were agreed to, Capital Power must submit an updated construction and operation mitigation plan that incorporates the additional mitigation measures at least 60 days prior to the start of construction of the Whitla Phase 3 Wind Power Plant turbines.
The AUC further noted that Capital Power was required to comply with the requirements of Rule 033: Post-approval Monitoring Requirements for Wind and Solar Power Plants. Subsection 3(3) of Rule 033 requires the approval holder to submit to AEP and the AUC annual post-construction monitoring survey reports. As a result, the AUC imposed the condition that Capital Power shall submit an annual post-construction monitoring survey report to AEP and the AUC for all three phases of the Whitla Wind Project.
The AUC found that Capital Power’s construction monitoring plan would adequately address potential environmental impacts of the Project. The AUC also found that the discussion with AEP and the implementation of additional mitigation measures directed by AEP would ensure that the Power Plant would align with AEP’s post-construction wildlife requirements.
The AUC found that with diligent application of all the discussed mitigation measures, the potential adverse environmental effects of the Project, including those on wildlife and wildlife habitat, could be adequately mitigated.
Capital Power submitted a noise impact assessment (“NIA”) that predicted that the proposed Project would comply with Rule 012: Noise Control. The AUC noted that the noise study area for the Project contained a significant number of energy-related facilities that potentially influence cumulative sound levels at affected receptors. The Commission found that Capital Power reasonably identified baseline facilities with the potential to influence cumulative sound levels at affected receptors and established reasonable sound power levels to calculate the contribution of baseline facilities to cumulative sound levels at affected receptors.
However, because the predicted cumulative sound levels at five receptors exceed the 40 dBA nighttime PSL and because of the small margin of compliance at ten other receptors, the AUC found that the Project’s compliance with Rule 012 required additional scrutiny. Accordingly, as a condition of approval for the Project, the AUC required Capital Power to conduct a post-construction comprehensive sound level (“CSL”) survey to confirm compliance with Rule 012. Receptors R13 and R26 had been identified as the receptors at which the Project would be a major noise contributor. Accordingly, the post-construction CSL survey was required to include an evaluation of low-frequency noise at receptors R13 and R26.
The AUC reviewed conditions of approval in Approval 25780-D02-2020 for the Whitla Phase 1 Wind Power Plant and Whitla Phase 2 Wind Power Plant and updated them as necessary to include matters relating to the Whitla Phase 3 Wind Power Plant.
The AUC noted that, at the time of the application for this decision, there were no public safety standards or regulations associated with shadow flicker. The AUC accepted Stantec Consulting Ltd.’s conclusion that no residence would be affected by more than 30 hours per year or more than 30 minutes per day of shadow flicker. The AUC was satisfied that the shadow flicker effects would be minimal.
The AUC considered approval of the application to be in the public interest. Subjected to the noted conditions, the AUC approved the application.