UPPER VAUGHAN – Neighbours spilled out of the packed little red school house here Wednesday evening for a friendly chat and to enjoy the cool brisk wind, which was, in fact, the very thing they were there to discuss.
Scores of people turned up at the Upper Vaughan Community Centre for the first open house to obtain information on the largest wind farm proposal for Nova Scotia.
Minas Basin Pulp and Power Co. Ltd. would provide the land it currently logs to Ventus Energy Inc. to erect up to 66 wind turbines on 55 square kilometres of land that straddles Hants and Lunenburg counties. Some of these turbines could be 140 metres high when the height of the tower and the vertical height of the blades are added together.
The turbines would generate up to 100 megawatts of energy a year enough to power 35,000 homes.
Most of the people at the open house said they’re keen on green energy sources, but are concerned about the size of this project and what it means for their rural community.
“The main concern we have is what the noise is going to be,” said Gary Fullerton. He and his wife Gale live in the Municipality of Chester about four kilometres from one end of the proposed site. They learned of the South Canoe Wind Park through a flyer that arrived in their mailbox last week.
“We’re not clear on . . . what the noise level is going to be,” Mr. Fullerton said. The open house did not include a presentation. Rather, it was a chance for people to ask questions of company representatives.
The engineering firm carrying out an environmental assessment of the project, M.K. Ince and Associates Ltd., says you can stand below a turbine and carry on a normal conversation.
“I have mixed feelings,” Mrs. Fullerton said. “Renewable energy is a very good idea, but in our backyard, if I can use that old quote, I’m not sure.”
Steve Porter’s family has lived on the New Ross Road, about 400 metres from the proposed site, for four generations. “I support it, just not on this scale,” he said.
“Right now we’re just looking for information, that’s why I’m here,” Mr. Porter said. “I still have concerns, I still have questions, but we’re early in the process.”
His main question is how close the turbines will be to his property. “It appears they’ll be about 600 metres from my property and that concerns me.”
Martin Ince of the engineering firm told residents the people behind the project wanted to introduce themselves to the community, hear residents’ concerns and answer their questions. “There’s nothing firm about it,” he said of the proposal.
Wayne Kehoe lives on Mockingigh Lake, about four kilometres from the project, so he doesn’t expect to be directly affected by it, but he does want to know what the companies plan to do. He, too, favours alternative forms of energy.
“If you don’t do this here, right in the middle of nowhere, you can’t do it anywhere.”
But Mr. Kehoe questions whether Ventus Energy has the money to get this project off the ground. The Toronto-based company was recently bought by Suez Energy North America Inc. of Houston, which is a subsidiary of the French firm Suez SA, for $124-million.
John Copas worries the wind farm will turn his quiet neighbourhood into a tourist attraction. “Right now I sit on my deck and I can count two cars going by, and I know them.”
He fears “gawkers” will traipse through the woods to see what’s going on and that the area where he loves to hunt and fish will be turned into a trendy community.
He moved to Wiles Settlement from Windsor four years ago because it is quiet. “I don’t want to see Sea-Doos and beach balls,” he said. “I’m in a place I like. I don’t want to see it change. I don’t want to see it turned into cottage country.”
Brad Armstrong of the environmental group Friends of Nature Conservation Society said his chief concern is that the forest is properly managed. He said the wind farm could be a truly green project if the developers leave the surrounding woods intact and incorporate nature trails for visitors.
“I’m very pro-wind energy; I’d just like to see it’s done right,” he said. “I think it’s a positive development that could be a very good industry for the area, a clean industry,” providing it complements, rather than destroys its surroundings.
By Beverly Ware
South Shore Bureau
14 September 2007
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