A 20-turbine wind farm is planned for the Rossway-Gulliver’s Cove area of Digby Neck by the Scotian WindFields, in partnership with SkyPower Corp. Since the May announcement, Digby Neck has been abuzz with questions about the development.
The Courier passed along some of those questions to Barry Zwicker, president of Scotian WindFields:
Q: People have heard about ‘infra noise’. “It’s not necessarily what you hear. The vibrations are also there,” they have been told.
A: Infra noise has been studied and while it is not unanimous, the majority of the reports seem to indicate that infra noise really does not exist or that it is not harmful if it does exist. I am not a noise or acoustic expert so I am only reporting what I have been able to read from objective third party experts.
Q: Debbie VanTassel has expressed concern that the noise or the ‘flicker effect’ [of sunlight hitting spinning blades] could trigger seizures with her husband who is epileptic. The VanTassels are also concerned that stress caused by noise could affect their emus’ egg laying and the quality of their meat.
A: Given the location of their farm next to Gulliver’s Cove Road I don’t believe there will be any turbine development close to it.
Q: I have an email from a local resident: “The World Health Organization has urged its member nations to take preventive measures against emissions of ultra low-frequency electromagnetic waves such as those from power lines, citing their effects on human health and possible link between the emissions and infant leukemia.” There will have to be new power lines to transmit the energy produced on the wind farm?
A: I have read some of those articles as well and there does seem to be some form of link between high voltage transmission lines and certain diseases such as leukemia. The lines we will be constructing from our site to the Conway substation are not high voltage lines as defined by the World Health Organization.
Q: Will you be blasting? People are worried that blasting could affect wells in the area.
A: We don’t have the micro siting completed yet so it is not possible to state the extent of blasting, if any, that will be required to install the foundations for the towers. The environmental assessment that is currently ongoing will address this concern. If we end up blasting, we will be undertaking pre-blast surveys of homes and wells in the area to determine potential risk. If the worst case happens and wells are damaged or negatively impacted Scotian WindFields and its contractor will be responsible to repair or replace.
Q: At the planning advisory committee (PAC) meeting this week you mentioned a decibel level that is widely considered acceptable. How was this determined?
A: At that meeting I referred to a report prepared by the Canadian Acoustics Association. In that report there are a number of individual studies from different countries with extensive experience in the wind industry. While these reports are not totally consistent they determine a range of decibel levels that have been accepted in other areas. The important thing to realize is that every site is different.
Topography, vegetation, construction standards for homes, levels of insulation and quality of windows all must be taken into consideration. The sound level determined to be acceptable ranges from 40 to 50 decibels.
Q: Some people have been led to believe the power generated at the Digby County wind farm will not necessarily benefit that community. I have also heard people say they have heard that the power generated in Digby will be exported to the U.S. Can you comment on this?
A: The power to be generated by this wind farm will go directly into the Conway substation. This substation serves the town of Digby, Digby Neck and surrounding areas.
It is necessary to have an understanding of how the Nova Scotia Power system works. The lines that are in front of all of our homes have power in them ready for us to use. This power currently is generated in a variety of locations and added to the transmission grid.
When our facility comes on line there will be sufficient power generated and put into the grid through the Conway substation to power some 10,000 homes. The people in the Digby area will have their power come from our wind farm. There will be none of the power generated from this farm exported out of Nova Scotia.
Q: I was told by Lance Laviolette, a researcher associated with Brier Island Bird Migration Research, that because of their migration pattern, there could be a risk for raptors, particularly the sharp-shinned hawk.
A: A large part of the environmental assessment has to do with determining what if any impact our project will have on the migratory birds in the area. Our assessment started last fall and will run until this fall to cover a full 12-month cycle. I have seen the list of birds that are being specifically studied and the sharp-shinned hawk is on that list. We are still waiting for the report but to date there has been no concern expressed at this time.
Q: How does the proposed development on Digby Neck compare to the development at Pubnico? The Pubnico development was built in 2005? If local people traveled to Pubnico, would this give them a realistic idea of the sound that will be generated by the Digby Neck wind farm?
A: I would like to see as many people as possible visit Pubnico and get a sense of what a farm looks like and sounds like. Pubnico uses a turbine that is about the same size and scale as the 1.5-megawatt GE machines we will be using.
The internal workings of the GE machine are different and of a newer more advanced technology that the Vestas machines used in Pubnico. The gearbox system is different and that is a source of noise in Pubnico.
Our turbines will have much greater separations than those in Pubnico. The Pubnico layout is on a relatively small parcel of land (less than 500 acres). Our farm will be distributed over 2,700 acres.
The Pubnico layout has up to four turbines in a straight line. The Digby Neck layout will not be in straight lines but will be located on high points of land.
The Pubnico site is basically at the same grade as the homes that are located in the area. Our turbines will be located at elevations 125-170 meters above the existing homes in the area. So while the machines are similar in scale the design, layout and topography are dramatically different.
Q: A number of Digby Neck residents who will not have turbines on their properties are convinced their land values will decrease.
A: In terms of property values there is absolutely no evidence that the development of a wind farm project has any negative impact on property values. In fact, there is evidence in Pubnico that property values have increased at the same rate as communities in that section of the province where there is not a wind farm.
Q: Scotian WindFields is ‘community-owned’. What do you mean by this?
A: We mean that the largest proportion of our shares are owned by Community WindFields. There are seven active Community WindFields currently in operation. The eighth, in Cape Breton and it is just getting underway. There are over 500 Nova Scotia families who have invested funds in the Community WindFields and in turn Community WindFields started Scotian WindFields Inc. (SWFI)
Q: Can you still call the project community owned and community supported when you are partnering with a company, Skypower, which is owned by a global investment bank? Doesn’t this change your priorities from promoting benefits to the local community to making sure the shareholders benefit?
A: SkyPower has access to turbines and extensive funds to allow the project to be funded. There are no sources for $80 million that we have found in Nova Scotia. So to the extent that we are able, the benefits of this project will stay in Nova Scotia. When the local lending institutions are prepared to lend those kinds of funds, we will of course use them, which may imply more advantage to Nova Scotia.
Q: At a recent community meeting, a representative from Sierra Club suggested that the applied Geomatics Research Group at the Centre of Geographic Sciences (COGS) might develop a video simulation of the project, so people can see what the project will look like from local roads and homes. The idea was unanimously supported. Will Scotian WindFields work with COGS on this?
A: Of course we will work with COGS. I am very familiar with their capabilities and the Sierra Club representative mentioned this to me at the planning advisory committee meeting. We will be preparing a visual impact analysis to some level so if COGS is prepared to undertake it we will work with them.
Q: When will Scotian WindFields hold a public meeting to tell residents about the details of the project and answer the residents’ questions?
A: Once we have a final layout we will be first contacting the landowners to discuss the details and then we will hold general meetings within the community. I expect that to be in early September.
By Jeanne Whitehead
23 July 2008
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