Wind project open house - Patrick Henn (Senior Development Manager RES) discusses the Bekevar Wind Project with a resident at the Open House held in Kipling last Wednesday.

The wind is a persistent variable in our part of this world. No other force of nature intervenes to shape our daily lives as frequently as the wind. Mere circumstance can prove decidedly flimsy in the face of a prairie wind. No matter whether our circumstances cause us to welcome the wind or curse it, there is no denying its power. But now, a wind energy project taking shape in this area may mean that the ‘power’ carried by the wind becomes a part of our daily lives in an entirely different way.
Last Wednesday, residents had an opportunity to learn more about the Bekevar Wind Project at a day-long Open House Information Session held at the Kipling Friendship Center in Kipling.
Project team members from RES (Renewable Energy Systems – the company responsible for the development, construction and operation of the project) along with experts in a variety of different areas, were on hand to answer questions and address concerns. As well, representatives from ANEDC (Awasis Nehiyawewini Energy Development – the Cowessess First Nation owned entity that has partnered with RES to form the Bekevar Wind L.P.) were there to discuss the potential benefits that Cowessess First Nation sees in this development.
Patrick Henn (Senior Development Manager) explains that RES is a global corporation that has been involved in renewable energy products in Canada.
“RES is based in the UK and has been involved with renewable energy projects all over the world. We came to Canada about 20 years ago and have been involved with renewable energy projects in Quebec, Ontario, Eastern Canada and Alberta.”
He goes on to say that RES has been interested in developing a wind project in this area for several years.
“We were here in 2016, when the provincial government first announced its intention to phase out coal. This area was of interest because of the proximity to the Kennedy substation…good wind and a supportive land base.”
Last year, we put in a competitive tender for a development here. In June, the government announced that the Bekevar Wind Project had been selected. The project will consist of approximately 35-40 wind turbines that will be located in the RMs of Kingsley and Hazelwood as well as on land that is owned by the Cowessess First Nation.”
Henn notes that the project will bring several benefits to the area.
“The main benefits will be socio-economic. Landowners will receive sizable payments for land rental over the life of the project (20 – 30 years). So, it will be a secure revenue source for them.
Approximately 200 people will be working on-site at the peak of the two-year construction phase of the project. There are also roads that will have to be built and numerous other opportunities to outsource work in different areas.
Once the construction phase is complete, the project will need a half dozen Wind Farm Operators. These are well-paying jobs and these individuals will be living in this area. All of this will mean increased economic activity in Kipling and in other nearby communities.”
Henn added that residents have been generally supportive of the project.
“We’ve been actively consulting with people who live in the area. Over the summer, we went door to door, talked with people on their porch and left information with them. Overall, the project has been very well received.
The RMs of Kingsley and Hazelwood have given an official resolution supporting this development. Some landowners we spoke with did not want wind turbines built on their land. But we have 20,000 acres of land signed up for the project right now. That’s enough for it to proceed.”
Shant Dokouzian (Principal Wind Turbine Engineer – Energy Advisory – DNV) says that one of the concerns that is most often raised is the issue of noise coming from the turbines. While he acknowledges that turbines do emit some noise during peak wind conditions, he says that the turbines will be located so that the noise will no exceed acceptable levels.
“It takes in the order of 40km/hr wind for a turbine to produce its maximum or nominal speed. Even if the wind gets faster, the turbine won’t turn any faster than that nominal speed.
The noise at the base of a turbine that’s turning at its nominal speed is approximately 60 – 65 A-weighted decibels. That’s about the level of a conversation that happens in a room full of people. As you move away from the base of the turbine, the sound diminishes. One turbine located approximately 300 – 400 meters away will produce about 40 decibels of noise. That’s slightly more than the level of a whisper. One also has to keep in mind that the wind will be blowing when the wind turbine reaches that level. Quite often, the sound of the wind blowing on trees and structures like houses will mask some or all of the noise from the turbines, particularly in flat terrain”
He adds that proper placement of turbines is also important in minimizing noise.
“If you have several turbines located too close to you, the cumulative noise level would be unacceptable. Acoustic Engineers work to determine where turbines should be located, so that during a ‘worst case’ situation, when its cold and humid and the wind is blowing directly at the house, the noise level will still not exceed 40 A-weighted decibels.”
Dokouzian notes that RES has put that requirement in place, even though there is no formal noise regulation for wind turbines in Saskatchewan.
“That standard is in line with the strictest regulations in Canada. But it’s worth noting that Saskatchewan does not have any regulations regarding this. So, RES is using the regulations set in Alberta as the guide for this project. That’s the benefit of having a company like RES involved in this type of development. They are actually abiding by strict regulations when they are not explicitly required to do so.”
Andrew Ryckman (Biologist with Natural Resource Solutions Inc.) says that the impact of wind turbines on migratory birds is another issue that is frequently raised.
“There are environmental surveys and assessments that must be done before a project like this can proceed. One of the key factors that must be considered is the impact that the project will have on birds…particularly sensitive species of birds such as the Burrowing Owl and the more common Horned Lark (which accounts for about approximately a quarter of the mortalities associated with wind turbines).
We began doing surveys of bird populations and migration patterns in March of this year…and are just wrapping those surveys up now. As well, because this area has been of interest for some time, there are other studies that have been done previously. We use these surveys to determine where turbines should be located so as to have the least amount of impact possible. You will never be able to have zero mortality. There is a level of impact that is considered ‘acceptable’ and in my opinion that level is quite low. So, the goal is to keep the impact that this project has on bird and bat populations at or below that ‘acceptable’ level.”
Ryckman adds that “safeguards” have been put in place to account for variations that might be caused circumstances such as the current drought.
“It’s inevitable that there will be variations from year to year. So, one of the components built into a project like this is a monitoring system that’s put in place when the turbines are operating. If it’s found that the number of mortalities that are occurring are greater than expected, adjustments can be made so that the level of impact can be reduced to an acceptable level.”
He also points out that environmental assessments are also done to ensure the project will not negatively impact various ecosystems in the area.
“There are a number of steps that go into determining where turbines will be located, so that sensitive features can be protected. We identify areas of native prairie, wetlands and other sensitive spaces. We also identify sensitive plant species in the area. This is done I order to ensure that turbines will not be located in these spaces. Ultimately, the impact of a project like this will never be ‘none’. But our goal is to ensure that the impact on various species and their habitat is minimized.”
Jessica Nixon (Director of Economic Development – Cowessess First Nation) says that the potential benefits of the Bekevar Wind Projectled to the decision to partner with RES on this project.
“Cowessess owns three quarter sections of land south of Kipling. The land was purchased through the Treaty Land Entitlement process, with the objective of building a land portfolio that could achieve higher economic value for Cowessess than agricultural leases. When RES approached Cowessess in 2017 about including that land in the Bekevar Wind Project, the decision was made to partner with RES on the project. Cowessess has a minority ownership stake in the project and will be contributing equity to it. In the years ahead, this project will generate economic returns that can go back into Cowessess First Nation for reinvestment in other business opportunities or to help fund social programming.”
Daphne Kay (Community Energy Specialist for Cowessess ) says the project is a “big win” for Cowessess members.
“This will be a great opportunity for training and mentorship to take place in construction and wind turbine maintenance, that will allow our people to build a broader skill set and become ‘job ready’. We are passionate about renewable energy. According to our values, we are not to take more from the land than we need…and are to give back to the land as much as we can. Capturing the power of the wind fits well with those values.”
Patrick Henn notes that while some steps need to be taken before work on the Bekavar Wind Project can begin, he is optimistic that construction will begin next summer.
“It’s not a ‘done deal’ yet. The Ministry of the Environment has to give us the necessary permit. The RMs need to provide us with a development permit as well. Zoning amendments have to be made and the final site design has to be completed. But at this point, we see no reason why there would be any ‘push back’. So, we’re looking forward to starting construction on this project in June.”

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