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Large turbines aren't always welcome

Wind turbine farms are on the horizon for Halifax, but finding a place for a cluster of 20-storey windmills will be the hard part, says a regional councillor.

“It’s an important form of energy to get us off coal and fossil fuels, but you just have to have them in the right places,” Coun. Bob Harvey (Lower Sackville) said Monday.

Regional councillors are set to talk about the new energy source at tonight’s meeting at city hall. The city needs amendments to its planning strategy to prepare policies to allow the turbines to be located in Halifax Regional Municipality.

So far, no policies exist.

As well, councillors need to instruct staff to follow the public participation program in getting feedback about the initiative.

“I expect they will take a long, hard look at it,” Mr. Harvey said about the process.

“We don’t want to get into the same situation with the landfill site, where people living up there found themselves with a negative,” he said.

According to a staff report, the new form of energy is beneficial, but it’s not always welcome in a community.

“While wind energy is valued as an environmentally friendly power source, the size of the wind turbines and wind farms also raises planning issues regarding compatibility with homes from noise and impact on views, etc.”

An attachment to the report expands on that, indicating “wind turbines often have heights comparable to 20-storey buildings which can adversely impact community esthetics and scenic landscapes and the rotating blades may cause excessive noise to neighbouring residents.”

However, test sites chosen for the possible locations for wind turbines include the Otter Lake and Sackville landfills, watersheds at Tomahawk, Lake Major and Pockwock lakes, and the Western Common in St. Margarets Bay.

While those areas are quite far removed from residential areas, a former regional councillor said wind turbines shouldn’t be viewed as a negative and hidden away from view.

John Cunningham, who represented Dartmouth Centre until the last election in 2004, has a country home in Pubnico, about one mile across open water from the wind turbines in Pubnico, Yarmouth County.

“I have a full view of them and there are 17 of them there,” he said in an interview Monday.

He doesn’t deny there is a sound to the blades but said it’s more like a gentle “whooooosh” than a repetitive “rat-a-tat-tat.”

“When you drive up to the windmills, you can hear them,” he said, comparing the sound to the lapping of nearby waves on the shore.

“But I understand that residents living in close proximity can find it annoying.”

He said the windmill farm has added to the landscape and “makes for a very peaceful vista.”

Tourists stop daily in front of his home to photograph the scene, he said.

“It has certainly become a tourist attraction because people are interested in them and from an environmental point of view. It’s a very positive thing.”

By Amy Pugsley Fraser, City Hall Reporter