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Southern Alberta communities opposing proposed solar project

Fort Macleod town council's meeting on Feb. 26, 2024. (Karsen Marczuk/CTV News) Fort Macleod town council's meeting on Feb. 26, 2024. (Karsen Marczuk/CTV News)

Several residents have joined the councils of Fort Macleod and the M.D. of Willow Creek in a united show of opposition against a massive solar project proposed to be developed southwest of the town.

During Monday evening’s town council meeting, Fort Macleod Mayor Brent Feyter and M.D. of Willow Creek Reeve Maryanne Sandberg signed a letter of opposition against Neoen Jumbo Solar Project, developed by a French multinational company.

“The loss of good agricultural land and what the price of food is going to be,” Sandberg said.

“We're hearing, again, from people that the fact that the devaluing of their property by having a solar facility close to them.”

The Neoen project proposes to construct a 178-megawatt industrial-scale solar project about 1.6 kilometres away from the Town of Fort Macleod.

A map shows the proposed project area for Neoen Jumbo Solar Project in relation to the town of Fort Macleod. (Source: Town of Fort Macleod)

Mark Boots who lives about 400 metres away from the proposed site is against the development.

“There's 22 houses affected by this. We have retired people who have put their whole life savings into their real estate and now the real estate just gets devaluated,” Boots said.

The project includes 1,500 acres of solar development and 405,000 panels.

“It also lies in the path of the Intermunicipal Development Plan (IDP) that we jointly have with the town of Fort Macleod,” Sandberg said.

“As you know, those IDPs are mandated by the province that we had to have them.”

Sandberg argued the project goes against the municipal district’s current bylaws and will impede the future development of that area.

Although not within town limits, Feyter says the project will impact the town.

“When a new bypass goes around town, the new highway would go right through the solar project so there's that,” Feyter said. “There's the airport that we have that is directly downwind from the proposed development area.”

Both Sandberg and Feyter say they are not anti-solar but want more consultation before proposed sites are announced.

“We're hoping that this will just increase the level of communication, even on the provincial side,” Feyter said.

“Let's identify locations where it totally makes sense to do solar and then invite people to develop on those areas rather than, to some degree, feeling like you're doing it backwards.”

Sandberg says Neoen would submit an application through the Alberta Utilities Commission (ACU). The ACU can approve it without support from the municipalities.

The company held a community open house last week and its literature says it plans to make a submission to the utilities commission in the second quarter of this year. If approved, construction could start in 2026, with completion in 2027.

CTV News reached out to Neoen for reaction to the councils' and residents' concerns. This story will be updated when they respond. Top Stories

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