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Residents share input on proposed wind farm

More than 75 local residents attended an information session on the proposed wind farm near Aulac last Thursday evening (July 3), with some leaving with the feeling the session wasn’t enough.

Held at Tantramar Regional High School, the open house information meeting was hosted by Acciona Wind Energy Canada Inc., the company responsible for the project to construct a 64.5-megawatt wind farm comprised of 43 wind turbines near Aulac.

Acciona had representatives readily available to answer questions or concerns from community members one-on-one.

Local residents that attended the open house were given a comment sheet to fill out, which project developer Annie Callan says was very useful for getting feedback.

“We had nothing shocking or anything like that . . . just common concerns and people had questions about noise and things like that, but we’ve done all the proper studies so we shouldn’t have any problems there.”

As part of Acciona’s own standards, wind turbines constructed by the company are kept 550 metres away from any residence, which is almost double the provincial requirement, in order to avoid any noise issues.

“But anyone who’s ever been close enough to a wind farm to actually hear the turbines would know that they’re very quiet,” she said.

Callan boasts that wind energy is positive in almost every aspect, and will bring jobs both during the construction stage and afterwards, when several full-time jobs will be created to maintain and operate the turbines.

As well, she predicts that, once completed, the wind farm will help to stabilize energy prices.

“We won’t see a drastic drop in energy prices or anything but it does help to stabilize. And I think it just brings a lot of positive attention to the community,” she said.

However, a common concern from many local residents during the open house was that the session did not provide enough information, and that further presentations were necessary for the public to stay informed about the project.

Sabine Dietz, a local resident of Sackville, said she hopes to see more dialogue between Acciona and local area residents.

“I’m a bit disappointed that I haven’t heard yet that there’s to be a community- based approach,” she said, “which has much more to do with getting the community involved and not just asking for concerns, but actually having extensive discussions”

While still finding the project very interesting, Dietz hopes in the future there will be more “sincere dialogue between the company and the community members that are interested.”

Mayor Pat Estabrooks also believes the community needs to be kept informed on what’s happening with the project, though she admits her reaction to the proposed wind farm has still been fairly positive.

“I believe it will be a great economic generator for our area,” said Estabrooks.

“And the fact that we’re using green power energy, to me, is a positive thing and helping us out in the environment.”

Due to the community’s outcry for more information on the project, Callan says a formal presentation on the project is in the works for the fall.

“This (open house) was more of a one-on-one discussion event. We find we get a lot more feedback from people because not everyone feels comfortable asking questions in front of a large group of people.”

Acciona refused to submit a map detailing the proposed wind farm location to the Tribune-Post.

Construction for the wind farm will get underway in early 2009, and should be operational by November of that same year.

Chris LeBlanc

The Sackville Tribune Post

9 July 2008