DIGBY – If you live in Digby County, a wind farm could be coming to a vacant field near you.
The Municipality of the District of Digby passed a motion Monday to amend its land-use bylaw dealing with wind turbine developments.
In doing so, it paved the way for a third tier of mid-sized wind turbine developments. Mini wind farms may now sprout in fields or on vacant lots that meet the new regulations.
“The proposed amendments will introduce a new class of turbine – community scale wind turbine(s),” said municipal warden Linda Gregory at Monday’s public hearing.
After several written and oral submissions had been made, mostly urging caution, council passed the proposed amendment to their land-use bylaw allowing for community scale windmill projects.
The amendment now goes to the Department of Municipal Affairs for ministerial approval, Gregory said.
As part of the province’s efforts to promote power production from renewable resources, a community-based, feed-in program was established, a handout from the municipality said.
Participation in such programs is restricted to municipalities, First Nations, co-ops, community and non-profit groups.
The new community scale turbines will be slightly smaller than commercial types. The electricity they generate will be used by Nova Scotia Power in the region, the municipal briefing document said.
The turbines may be set up in clusters on an approved piece of land where electricity could be generated and sent off-site.
The municipality already allows property owners to erect small, personal use domestic windmills for on-site power. The community-based turbines will fall somewhere in the middle of personal- and industrial-use turbines.
“There seems to be an absence of consideration of the good neighbour policy which considers the rights of citizens who already have a property adjacent to a proposed wind turbine installation,” Shirley Langpohl of Gilberts Cove told councillors.
“We believe these citizens need to have their right to undisturbed enjoyment of their property protected,” she said.
She suggested that the written permission of all nearby landowners be required before a project starts. The bylaw amendment also allows turbines to be erected without an environmental assessment and that’s wrong, she said.
The amendment stipulates a minimum setback of twice the height of a turbine from any property boundary and a maximum noise level of 45 decibels at any property line. More than one wind turbine would be allowed on one lot.
That’s an open invitation for the creation of wind farms within communities, said Sandy Cove resident Ashraf Mahtab. He said that section of the amendment should be removed.
Warden Gregory voted against the motion. She said council should have looked at a specific or maximum number of wind turbines per property.
The amendment allows a non-profit or other qualified group to partner with a commercial wind company if the non-profit venture owns 51 per cent or more of the entity.
No non-profit group had asked Digby municipal council to consider community-scale wind farm regulations. But Scotian WindFields Inc., the developer of Digby Neck’s commercial wind park (now owned and operated by Nova Scotia Power) made a request in February.
The company sought the change because the municipality’s land-use bylaw stipulated that the energy produced by smaller type turbines be consumed on-site. But the province’s new strategy envisions smaller turbines selling power to the grid, said Dan Roscoe, Scotian WindField’s chief operating officer, on Tuesday.
“These are smaller-scale wind turbines and shouldn’t be confused with the size of turbines that are at the Digby Neck wind farm . . . the utility grade.”
He said 45 decibels is comparable to ambient noise outside on a windy day.
Scotian WindFields is affiliated with community organizations throughout the province, he said, such as Bay WindField Inc. in southwestern Nova Scotia.
A qualified group could sell its electricity to Nova Scotia Power. The provincial utility review board has created a special rate that provides a reasonable rate of return for investors in these projects, Roscoe said.
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