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Wind farm to be built on Tantramar Marshes; Forty-three turbines to go up on marshes between Sackville and Aulac

Vistas on the picturesque Tantramar marshes once dotted by marsh barns will soon be home to 43 wind turbines.

At an open house held in Sackville on Thursday night, 75 residents and land owners took the opportunity to meet with officials from Acciona Wind Energy Canada Inc. and their partners to learn more about the pending project.

Panels were on display for attendees to read, representatives from the companies involved were on hand to answer questions and comment cards were available to be filled out.

“What was lacking was an impression of what the facility would look like as a landscape,” said John Higham, a resident of Sackville, after the event was over.

Higham said he was expecting more information to be available in terms of design and sightlines, explaining he felt like it was an “awkward set-up” and he was disappointed with the way the information was presented.

The 64.5-mega watts wind power facility will supply New Brunswick’s electrical system with an additional source of renewable energy. Acciona has already signed a 25-year power purchase agreement with NB Power Inc. The power it will produce is enough to sustain more than 10,000 homes.

Annie Callan said it was important the company gets input from the community. As project developer for Acciona, she said it is important to hold community consultations so the company can get feedback from residents living in the area.

The Saint John-based company, Wind Dynamics Inc., initiated the project and started approaching land owners. They then turned to Acciona.

“Most people recognize green power is a very good thing and they seem to be quite pleased it is coming here,” said Tom Vihvelin, president with Wind Dynamics Inc.

He said a 1.6. kilometre (0.99 mile) access road has already been built leading to a permanent meteorological tower to be used for long-term wind measurements.

The company already has experience in wind park projects in Amherst, Nova Scotia and Lameque, New Brunswick.

For Robert Wheaton, a local farmer and landowner, this will be a good project. He is expecting a wind turbine to be set up on a 21-acre parcel of land he owns.

“To me, it means it’s another use for that land that probably has more of a future than farming,” he said. Once the structure is put in place, his cattle will still be able to pasture on the land and he said it will have a no ill effect on him or how he uses the land.

Projects of this nature need to meet the requirements of federal and provincial environmental assessments which are in line with regulations outlined in the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA), the Environmental Impact Assessment Regulation and the New Brunswick Clean Environment Act.

Callan said the environment assessments address wildlife habitat, historical resources, noise and socio-economic issues and will be submitted in September. Acciona has also partnered with Jacques Whitford, an environmental consultant firm based in Halifax, to ensure these are completed.

“We have consulted with the Canadian Wildlife Service and done the bird studies for a year now. We don’t have any problems as of now and we will mitigate in any way possible if need be,” she said.

Sackville Mayor Patricia Estabrooks was also at the information session and said she thinks the wind park will provide lots of excellent economic opportunities for her community and others. She cited examples of how the community could get involved including manufacturing some parts of the turbines or having a local company servicing the turbines.

Estabrooks said she, too, went to the event looking for more of a presentation and was a bit surprised that didn’t happen. She suggested to representatives from Acciona to consider making a presentation in fall to Sackville’s town council.

“I think that’s the key is to keep the communities informed and the people informed,” she said.

Recently-elected Town Councillor Margaret Tusz-King said she is excited for the opportunities for land owners and farmers to augment their incomes by hosting turbines since the agriculture industry is really struggling.

Tusz-King is also a member of EOS Eco-Energy Inc., a community organization with the vision for the Tantramar region to be green energy sustainable.

Formerly the Tantramar Wind Power Initiative, Tusz-King said the group advocates that no more energy is used than can be produced by a green means in the region. She added the group is very open to wind, solar and other technologies that are clean and green.

EOS members include the municipalities of Sackville, Dorchester, Memramcook, Port Elgin, individuals, businesses and Mount Allison University.

“EOS would also like to have a role in conferring with Acciona to ensure the community’s interests are maintained,” she said.

The project in Aulac has the potential to displace 90,000 tons (81.6 metric tonnes) of greenhouse gases. Acciona has installed six per cent of the world’s installed wind generation capacity in 163 wind parks located in 10 countries.

The company plans for the wind farm to be fully-operational by late 2009.

By Emily Ridlington
Times & Transcript Staff

timestranscript.canadaeast.com

5 July 2008