Scott Cyr: Large-scale Wind Projects “Alarming”

The following letter was issued to the Alberta Utilities Commission by Scott Cyr, MLA of Bonnyville-Cold Lake-St. Paul. It is one of the first serious critiques of commercial wind energy by a Canadian politician that we’ve read. We have reported on this letter here and here, but provide the full text now below:

November 29, 2023

Alberta Utilities Commission 103 Street Centre
Suite 1300, 10130 – 103 Street Edmonton AB
T5J 3N9


Dear Members of the Alberta Utilities Commission,

I am writing to express our support for your recent decision to pause approvals of new renewable electricity generation projects over one megawatt and to initiate an inquiry into the development of renewable electricity generation policies and procedures. As an advocate for responsible green energy, including nuclear power, I wish to share the concerns of my constituents regarding the current state of green energy technologies, particularly wind turbines and solar panels. Their concerns revolve around the local environmental and potential human impacts, which seem to be held to different standards compared to the oil and gas industry, or any other industry for that matter.

The extensive land use required for large-scale wind projects is alarming, potentially leading to the permanent alteration of prime farmland and natural landscapes.123

This contributes to the loss of prime farmland at alarming rates,4 an issue that must not be aggravated by poorly planned and irresponsibly executed green energy projects, particularly those that are heavily subsidized without delivering on their environmental and efficiency promises. Environmental impacts on soil and groundwater from wind turbine projects are troubling. Large-scale projects could cause surface warming,5 potentially altering local climate conditions and impacting ecosystems. There is also the risk of significantly drying the soil,6 affecting its agricultural potential and health, and disrupting crucial soil organisms, like annelids, vital for nutrient cycling and soil structure.7 Additionally, the potential contamination of critical groundwater during construction and operation phases is a serious concern.89

These green energy projects usually negatively affect the land values of the properties around them,101112 adding another layer of concern for local residents and landowners. In this context, it becomes essential to treat neighboring property rights with the same level of consideration and thorough planning as other key land use policies, such as water drainage plans and zoning regulations, ensuring that the interests of surrounding communities are respected and protected.

The impact on wildlife, particularly endangered species like the whooping crane, is a significant issue. Proposed wind turbines in our constituency would be built along the migration route of these birds,13 posing risks of collision mortality, habitat loss, and displacement.14 We need to implement wildlife protections to address these concerns.

Studies and court decisions have highlighted serious negative health effects for people residing within up to 10 kilometers of wind turbine plants, primarily due to ‘noise’ emissions.151617
These health concerns, along with the potential for negative external effects on local communities, add another dimension to the renewable energy debate.

Concerns about grid stability and the capacity of current battery technology to prevent grid instability, brownouts, and blackouts are valid. The reliability of our energy grid is vital for both urban and rural communities. Hailstorms knocking out entire solar farms18 not only put the system at risk but also raise concerns about the release of heavy metals into the ground.19

Some corporations are constructing green energy projects without the intention of operating them, instead aiming to obtain green tax credits or to artificially enhance their environmental reputation for PR purposes. This practice raises questions about the sincerity and effectiveness of such projects. Additionally, we are not tracking the emissions involved in producing green energy or energy imported into Canada, adding more costs to local consumers. This discrepancy in environmental accountability and financial burden is concerning. Many rural Albertans, especially those outside major cities, are already burdened with high energy costs. The transition to renewable technologies must not exacerbate this financial burden.

The Alberta NDP’s stance overlooks these environmental concerns. Their call for the immediate lifting of the pause seems overly hasty and potentially environmentally irresponsible. The NDP consistently insists on thorough environmental impact assessments for oil and gas projects yet appears to adopt a far less stringent stance for other forms of energy. This discrepancy in approach seems hypocritical and cavalier and undermines the importance of environmental considerations across all energy sectors.

Given these substantial environmental concerns, the NDP’s push for the immediate resumption of renewable energy development conflicts with responsible environmental stewardship. A balanced approach is essential, weighing the economic benefits of renewable energy growth against the potential long-term environmental costs.

Alberta’s commitment to responsible and sustainable development in the renewable energy sector is commendable. The province’s successful investment in renewables, facilitated by its deregulated electricity market, is a testament to its forward-thinking approach. The Alberta Utilities Commission’s inquiry reflects a thoughtful balance between rapid growth and the vital considerations of affordability, grid reliability, and environmental impact.

The temporary pause on new project approvals demonstrates a fair and strategic approach, ensuring that all stakeholders operate under a consistent and clear regulatory framework. This pause also allows for necessary policy and regulatory adjustments in response to the evolving needs of a rapidly growing industry. Alberta’s engagement with a wide array of stakeholders, including industry experts and landowners, underscores its dedication to an inclusive, market-based system that prioritizes the environment and the wellbeing of its citizens. This progressive stance solidifies Alberta’s position as an attractive destination for renewable energy investments, paving the way for a sustainable and prosperous energy future.

In light of these issues, we respectfully request that the consultation and investigation process be open and transparent, with significant involvement of the rural public in discussions about green energy projects. This will ensure that the voices and concerns of those most impacted by these developments are heard and addressed.

We urge the AUC to consider establishing green energy-restricted zones around environmentally sensitive areas and areas of natural beauty. This would help preserve Alberta’s unique landscapes and biodiversity, which are invaluable to our province’s identity and ecology. We propose that the AUC implement a policy requiring green energy projects to submit comprehensive reclamation plans, akin to those required for oil and gas initiatives. These plans should address potential soil contamination and other environmental impacts, ensuring that green energy projects adhere to the same stringent standards of environmental stewardship and future land-use planning. Additionally, it’s crucial to establish mandatory reclamation security requirements for these plans. Such requirements will protect landowners or the province from incurring the substantial costs associated with land reclamation at the end of a power plant’s lifecycle, particularly in scenarios of developer insolvency. This approach would encompass accounting for cost inflation and standardizing contracts and security arrangements, such as bonds or trusts, between project owners and landowners or the province. Implementing these measures, designed to guarantee adequate funding for reclamation, is vital for both new and existing projects. This strategy aims to safeguard landowners and the province while mitigating financial risks associated with project closure.

In conclusion, we strongly support the continuation of the pause on renewable energy approvals. This period should be used to conduct a comprehensive analysis of the potential environmental, economic, and social impacts of renewable energy projects. It is crucial that we approach the transition to renewable energy with a balanced perspective, ensuring that benefits do not come at an unacceptable cost to our environment, communities, and financial stability.

The AUC has a responsibility to the environment, but that responsibility does not end there. We need to ensure that future generations are not burdened with decisions we make today.

Thank you for considering this submission. We look forward to the outcomes of the AUC’s inquiry and to working collaboratively on a sustainable and responsible energy strategy for Alberta.


Scott Cyr, MLA Bonnyville-Cold Lake-St. Paul


Honourable RJ Sigurdson, Minister of Agriculture and Irrigation

Honourable Nathan Neudorf, Minister of Affordability and Utilities

Honourable Rebecca Schulz, Minister of Environment and Protected Areas

Honourable Adriana LaGrange, Minister of Health

Honourable Dan Williams, Minister of Mental Health and Addiction

President Mitch Sylvestre, Bonnyville-Cold Lake- St Paul UCP Association

Mr. Mark Mallett, Wind Concerns

  1. “Under status quo development practices, the deployment of wind and solar would require over
    250,000 square miles, an area larger than Texas,”
    The Nature Conservatory[]
  2. “Harvard University researchers find that the transition to wind or solar power in the U.S. would require five to 20 times more land than previously thought,” October 4, 2018, Harvard Gazette[]
  3. Wind and solar energy can require at least ten times the amount of land per unit of power as coal and gas energy,” Jan 10, 2022, Hall et. al.[]
  4. “Agricultural Impacts Resulting from Wind Farm Construction” New York State Energy Research & Development Authority, October 2005[]
  5. Climatic Impacts of Wind Power, Miller et. al[]
  6. “Wind farms dry surface soil in temporal and spatial variation”, 2023, Wang et. al.[]
  7. “Vibrational noise from wind energy-turbines negatively impacts earthworm abundance” Vellila et. al., May 7[]
  8. Dusseault; “Water Wars: Wind Turbine Construction, Destroying Underground Water Supplies in Ontario”, March 16, 2018; cf. Sunday Post; cf. Irish Examiner[]
  9. Cf. “Big Winds Assault on Our Water”[]
  10. “Impact Analysis of the Niyol Wind Farm on Surrounding Rural Residential and Agricultural land Values in Logan County Colorado”, June 11, 2020, Forensic Appraisal Group[]
  11. “Ontario wind power bringing down property values”, 2011, CBC News[]
  12. “Diminution in Value Wind Turbine Analysis”, October 2012, Wellington Realty Group Inc.[]
  13. “Distribution of the Whooping Crane in North America”, 2019, Environment and Climate Change Canada[]
  14. “1.17 million birds are killed by wind turbines in the United States each year” American Bird Conservancy; cf. Energy Monitor[]
  15. “The health effects of wind turbine infrasound based on its propagation on the people in the surroundings of wind turbines in Finland”, 2019, Mehtätalo, E., M.Sc. Finland Agriculture and Forestry[]
  16. “Adverse Health Effects of Wind Turbines” Stelling, 20 October 2009[]
  17. “Low-frequency noise from large wind turbines”, Møllera & Pedersen, 20 December 2010[]
  18. “Baseball-Sized Hail Smashing into Panels at 150 MPH Destroys Scottsbluff Solar Farm” June 27, 2023, Cowboy State Daily[]
  19. “The Dark Side of Solar Power” June 18, 2021, Harvard Business Review[]
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Wind Concerns is a collaboration of citizens of the Lakeland Alberta region against proposed wind turbine projects.

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