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Amherst wind-power plan stalled

The development of a 19-tower, 31-megawatt wind farm on the marsh just outside Amherst has hit a snag and won’t be producing electricity in 2007 as planned.

However, company, town and Nova Scotia Power officials all said Friday they are confident the project will still become a reality.

Announced with much fanfare in 2005 by Wind Dynamics of Saint John and EHN of Spain, the $60-million project was to produce 100 gigawatts of energy – enough to supply the power needs of 10,000 homes for a year.

It was to have been constructed this year and generating power by next summer.

Nova Scotia Power was contracted to pay the partnership, Acciona Canada, six to seven cents per kilowatt hour over the 15-year life of the contract.

However, a large and unexpected increase in the price of wind turbines – more than 25 per cent in the last year alone – and the fact the federal government has not formally announced the Wind Power Production Incentive Program mean the company “will not be able to meet the economic terms of the original sales contract signed with Nova Scotia Power,” Acciona said in a press release Friday that announced the delay in the project.

The release came a day after officials from Acciona outlined the situation and their future plans for the project to officials from the town, province and power company.

Acciona has made significant progress toward developing the Amherst wind farm, the release stated. The company has erected an 80-metre meteorological tower that monitors wind at the hub height of the proposed wind towers, leased the land and completed the biophysical work needed to prepare an environmental assessment for the Environment Department.

While informing Nova Scotia Power that it will not be proceeding with current plans, Acciona officials said they are planning to submit a new bid for the project’s development when the power company issues another solicitation for wind power projects. They are also continuing to work on developing the environmental assessment.

Nova Scotia Power understands why Acciona cannot proceed with the original contract, NSP spokeswoman Glennie Langille said in a telephone interview Friday. “The dramatic increase in the price of turbines wasn’t foreseen when this project was announced. The fact is the original deal that was signed two years ago no longer works.”

Despite the setback, the power company still have a strong working relationship with Acciona and is looking forward to a new bid for a viable project for the Amherst site from Acciona during NSP’s next round of project solicitations, she said.

“We are in the midst of reviewing the options we have for another solicitation (of projects) and expect a call to be issued in the near future,” Ms. Langille said.

She said Acciona’s decision to wait for the next round of solicitation was the right step to take.

Nova Scotia Power is moving towards meeting the goal, set by the province, of 175 megawatts of wind-generated power by 2010, she said.

“We’ve seen 12 turbines go up in November and December,” she said. Those towers included three that were erected in the Higgins Mountain area of Cumberland County.

Amherst Mayor Jerry Hallee said he is convinced the project will proceed.

“I’m confident that by this time next year you will see work being done on the site and that it will be operating by 2008.”

He blamed the project’s delay on the federal government’s decision to review its green energy policy and the increasing cost of steel.

By Tom McCoag
Amherst Bureau