Wind turbines add more than income to daily operations

Article by Desmond Narian of Environmental Issues

Dixon Hammond has always been an environmentalist at heart. As a rancher, he relies on the land for a living, and says it’s in his best interest to make sure the land he works is healthy and clean. He began his foray into environmentally friendly initiatives by heading up the Beaver Creek Watershed Group – a group of Pincher Creek area residents concerned about the cleanliness of Beaver Creek – and soon after brought his ecological efforts home to his ranch by permitting the construction of three 1.8MW turbines on his land. “I just think wind power is a good way to go,” Hammond says. “We’re doing our part for the environment by having the turbines here.”

Vision Quest approached Hammond in 2001 about erecting the turbines on his land, and it didn’t take long for him and his family to agree to the idea. “We more or less knew [it] was coming this way,” Hammond says, referring to the emergence of wind facilities in Alberta’s southwestern corner. “It’s windy down here. We just decided to embrace a way to make good use of it.” After approximately one year of land talks and five months of construction, the Hammond ranch was outfitted with three
Vestas V80 turbines. Since installation, the Hammonds have had occasional visits to the turbines by Vision Quest operations and maintenance staff.

“We’ve developed a good working relationship with Vision Quest over the years,” he says. And while Hammond admits the presence of the machines took some getting used to, he believes the benefits outweigh any of the short-term inconveniences they’ve experienced. “I really don’t mind how they look,” he says. “There’s a saying around here that if you want to look at the turbines, you look at the turbines. If you want to look at the mountains, you look through the turbines. After a while, they become part of the landscape.” Hammond points out that while the turbines aren’t silent (he describes the noise as a steady hum) he is able to ride his horse directly underneath the rotating blades without spooking her. “The presence of the turbines doesn’t really affect my livestock at all,” he says. In addition to helping clean up the environment, another benefit Hammond enjoys is financial compensation. “It wasn’t the driving factor behind our decision to go ahead with things, but it certainly is nice to have,” he says. “I make more per acre per month on those sites than I ever could have made in cattle or wheat.” All in all, Hammond is pleased with his decision to have turbines placed on his land, and would certainly welcome the addition of a few more. “If they could be spaced together more closely, I’d have a lot more,” he says. “The idea is sort of contagious. We have neighbours now that weren’t sure about the idea when we were doing it, but now have turbines of their own.”