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Economic development and increased tourism are the key goals of a plan to install two megawatt scale wind turbines at Pincher Creek in the Canadian province of Alberta. The turbines would supply the baseload of the town and would mainly be funded by the private sector. The scheme is being promoted by the Economic Development Board of Pincher Creek and the plan is to use wind turbines in the 1.5 MW range. If the scheme goes ahead they would become the focus of a permanent municipal wind energy "interpretative centre," unique in North America. Pincher Creek already hosts Canada's largest wind farm, the 52 Kenetech turbine 18.9 MW Cowley Ridge plant.

The Pincher Creek turbines would be erected at a highway intersection outside the town. Cost estimates are $5.4 million for the turbines and $1.2 million for the balance of the project, which could include an older ABAX mechanical water pump windmill. Pincher Creek lies in the southwest corner of Alberta, in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and has for the last decade been the wind energy showcase of Canada. In addition to the Cowley Ridge wind farm, Pincher Creek hosts the Alberta Renewable Energy Test Site, the CWT-Adecon VAWT wind farm, and other demonstration wind turbines.

Susan Nelson of the Economic Development Board says the planned wind centre is a "boost which Pincher Creek desperately needs." Shell Canada's natural gas processing plant in Pincher Creek, the town's largest employer, is downsizing because of depleting gas reserves and has cut the number of jobs from 200 to 100. Shell officials have warned the town that the refinery "won't be there forever."

The Development Board recently commissioned a $10,000 feasibility study, which estimated that "a high quality, innovative, educational tourist attraction based on the area's well known Chinook winds would successfully attract visitors to Pincher Creek." The study estimates 55,000 visitors a year once the centre was complete in ten years.

The study points out, however, that under the competitive pricing of the Alberta Power Pool, which began operating on January 1, 1996 (Windpower Monthly, February 1996), wind may not be commercially viable when competing with coal generation which does not take exteralities into consideration. "Thus, Pincher Creek area representatives must aggressively lobby relevant government departments and utility agencies to convince them to recognise the positive aspects of generating and selling green power," states the study.

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