Kneehill County Council unanimously approved the reconfiguration of one-acre agricultural land for light industry to accommodate a cryptocurrency mining operation. The decision was made after a public hearing on May 10.
The councilors were considering a request from Fire Technology Corp. to reconsider a 1.04-acre portion of SE 28-32-26 W4 from agricultural zoning to light industrial zoning to allow for a cryptocurrency mining facility.
County Planning and Development Director Barb Hazelton presented the results of the public announcement of the Fire Tech app.
“The plot in question is owned by GVF Contracting Ltd. (Gordon Ferguson). It is accessed by Range Road 26-3 approximately 1.5 miles south of Hwy. 27 and just over two miles. Southwest of Torrington Hamlet.” , Hazelton said in his report.
“The area of the plot under consideration is currently being leased by Ember Resources Ltd. Fire Technology is looking to lease a 1.04 acre portion of this existing leased area for a microenergy generation and cryptocurrency mining facility.
“Fire Technology Corp. is a registered corporation in Alberta. The parent company is a private fund management institution registered in China. They have built a number of cryptocurrency mining facilities in China as well as one in Kazakhstan.
“Cryptocurrency mining requires the use of sophisticated computers with significant electrical needs.”
Hazelton noted that councilors have already approved the first reading of the reasoning ordinance, and this application has been made public and comments have been requested from reference agencies.
Hazelton pointed out that this application was only to reset the property; the cryptocurrency installation will go through a separate development authorization process.
Looking at the correspondence, Hazelton noted that no referral agency was commenting, and the county received no comments in favor of the facility.
The council received a letter from Pam Beauchamp, who objected to the request for the following reasons: traffic, noise, natural gas leaks, fire and toxic engine exhaust, among others.
Fire Tech representative Mark Lackie of Calgary’s Trimble Engineering spoke below, noting that the applicant has spent a lot of time looking for a good place to develop, and they consider the Kneehill County site to be the “optimal location.”
He noted that the cryptocurrency facility will need about one acre of the seven acres of the site, and it is proposed that it be developed in two phases: Phase I will generate just under one megawatt of energy and be up and running in July 2022, while Phase II will reach just under 10 megawatts of power and will be built in November or December 2022.
Lackie also suggested some employment for the project: possibly five to eight positions.
Cond. Carrie Fobes asked, during construction, what effects could county roads expect? The applicant’s engineer stated that several 40-foot tin containers will come with the heaviest, full-size generators, weighing about 75,000 pounds.
Fobes asked if the owner knew what the application was proposing, to which Lackie replied that the applicant had been in contact with Ferguson, who worked as an Ember Resources operator and supported the application.
He spent a lot of time talking about the noise that the project could generate if approved. The applicant had the acoustic engineer Mackenzie Kunz of Patching Associates in Calgary answer the questions. He told councilors he visited the site and made several recordings and observations, including the fact that Ember has four compressors at the site in question.
Both Reeve Jerry Wittstock and Coun. Ken King asked about the noise level if the cryptocurrency facility is added to the compressors.
Kunz stated, based on the observation he made on the site, that the cryptocurrency project combined with the compressors would still comply with AUC rules and added that the Fire Tech installation would add only one decibel to the noise level.
Kunz also claimed that when he was near the residences the compressors at Ember’s place were too weak to be heard.
Phobes pointed out that the site in question is in its division, and if there are noise complaints, Kneehill County will likely receive them; asked how it will be treated. Lackie’s complaints will be followed up and mitigation will be done if necessary.
Some questions were asked about the useful life of the cryptocurrency facility and Lackie stated that if, for example, Ember closed its operation, the cryptocurrency facility would also close.
A member of the public, Steven Raymer, asked if the cryptocurrency facility, which consumes natural gas, would affect utility rates for regional residents.
Applicant experts said the facility would consume about three million cubic feet of gas per day, which is minuscule compared to the amount produced per day in Alberta, which meant it would have no effect on utility tariffs.
Following the closed public hearing, councilors unanimously approved the second and third readings of the reorganization ordinance.
JOIN THE CONVERSATION