Paragliders are asking the territory’s assessment board to reject a proposal for a new wind farm on Haeckel Hill.
They maintain three new turbines will ruin what is being described as one of the best launch sites in Canada for a sport that’s growing in popularity internationally.
The potential for Haeckel Hill to serve as an anchor to draw in paragliders from around Canada and the world is very real, they maintain.
Haeckel Hill, the paragliders point out in their written submissions to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board, was the launch site for the Canadian long distance flight record – 250 kilometres to Pelly Crossing.
Russell Bamford, president of the Association of Yukon Paragliders and Hang Gliders, suggests the wind farm could be placed on nearby Mount Sumanik.
Mount Sumanik has a similar exposure to wind, so placing the three turbines there would result in a similar production of energy, Bamford wrote in his submission to the board.
“I believe the proposed turbines will make Haeckel Hill unsafe for paragliding and we will lose a special flying site that is open all year to local and visiting pilots from all over Canada and the world,” the association’s president wrote in his submission.
“We have pilots fly at Haeckel Hill from B.C., Alberta, Nova Scotia, U.S.A., Austria, France, Switzerland, to name a few.”
The paragliding association hosted a Haeckel Hill Paragliding Fly-in on Saturday, though the turnout was less than expected because of the weather conditions.
Volunteer members of the association laid down 10,000 square feet of sod in 2015 to improve the launch site, with the assistance of a $9,000 grant from Lotteries Yukon, Bamford points out in his submission.
He said both Yukon Energy and Nav Canada approved the improvements to the launch site.
Northern Energy Capital of Whitehorse is proposing to put up three, 900-kilowatt wind turbines with enough combined capacity to power 525 homes.
The company has entered into a sublease for the site with Yukon Energy.
Yukon Energy installed the first wind turbine on Haeckel Hill in 1993, though the 150-kilowatt Bonus turbine has been inoperable for several years.
The 660-kilowatt Vestas turbine, installed in 2000, is still in use. Icing on the blades during winters has been somewhat of a challenge.
Northern Energy’s $14-million proposal before the assessment board notes that each of the three new turbines would be state-of-the-art with de-icing mechanisms built into the blades.
The company put up a 70-metre meteorological tower on Haeckel Hill last fall to gather additional information.
The board is currently in the final stages of reviewing the company’s proposal. The deadline for submissions was May 2.
Paragliding instructor Trevor Mead-Robins of Fly Yukon Paragliding says the project as proposed would destroy Haeckel Hill as a viable launch site.
It would have a negative impact on his flying school and the economic potential associated with developing the sport of paragliding, mead-Robins writes in his submission to the board.
Whitehorse biologist Brian Slough submitted to the board that much more needs to be known about the impact the wind turbines would have on birds and bats.
Information presented in Northern Energy’s proposal about the potential impact is insufficient, says the veteran biologist of 35 years.
He says in his submission it’s estimated 888,000 bats are killed by wind turbines in North America every year – of which 47,400 are killed in Canada.
“With regards to bird and bat use of the area, there needs to be a proper impact assessment based on pre-construction monitoring, followed by a plan for post-construction monitoring and mitigation through adaptive management,” Slough wrote.
He says there are ways to reduce bat mortality without losing more than one per cent of generating potential.
Northern Energy president Malek Tawashy said this morning the company did have a representative at Saturday’s fly-in to meet with paragliders to discuss their concerns.
“We are looking for mutual beneficial outcomes in using the hill and maximizing enjoyment without obstruction,” Tawashy said of the potential of finding means of addressing the concerns while maintaining the viability of the wind project.
Mead-Robins said this morning he is open to working together with the company in an effort to come up with a suitable arrangement.
Fifteen to 20 pilots are expected in Dawson City for the Victoria Day long weekend to fly off the Dome, he said.