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Group seeks wind farm bonds

A group in Annapolis County wants to ensure potential wind farm developers – and not taxpayers – are on the hook for the costs of decommissioning turbines.

“Any company coming here, if they are serious . . . should have the integrity to put a bond in place to protect the landowner and the County of Annapolis,” Steve Lewis, spokesman for Friends for Responsibility for the Economy and Energy, said recently.

The municipality’s draft wind turbine bylaw, expected to come before council for second reading on Tuesday, does not require a bond or have any protection for taxpayers, he said. As a result, it could leave them paying the decommissioning costs for wind farms in 20 years, the average life span of a turbine.

“So we’re just saying (to council), ‘Slow down, let’s look at this a bit longer,’ ” Lewis said.

He stressed that he’s not opposed to wind farm development.

“We want economic development but only if it will not put landowners and taxpayers at financial risk and is of economic benefit to the majority of county citizens,” Lewis wrote in a letter to Annapolis County Warden Reg Ritchie.

Lewis also said landowners who allow large-scale wind turbine developments on their land may not be aware of their financial obligations. The cost of decommissioning one large-scale wind turbine could be as much as $100,000, he said.

The county has been working on a wind turbine bylaw for more than a year, as companies seek to develop wind farms in the region, including a large one on North Mountain, near Bridgetown. Lewis wants the county to send the bylaw back to the planning advisory committee for more study.

Under the Municipal Government Act, the county can seek a security or performance bond through a development agreement or through “conditional use” zoning, said Peter McInroy, a Musquodoboit Harbour lawyer hired by Lewis’s group.

But municipalities are reluctant to make that requirement for fear that developers will walk away, said Lewis.

Gregory Heming, a citizen member of the county’s planning advisory committee that studied the issue, is encouraging the county to slow down and get its bylaw right.

“The provincial government set these energy targets and then turned it loose on municipal governments to figure out how that’s going to work, without any guidelines,” said Heming, who has a doctorate in ecology, specializing in community development.

Warden Reg Ritchie could not be reached for comment by deadline Tuesday.

Proposed areas for wind-resource zones in the county include Parker Mountain Road, Victoria Beach and Hampton Hills on North Mountain and Spectacle Lake on South Mountain.

A $60-million, 12-turbine wind farm by Sprott Power Corp. of Toronto is proposed for Hampton Hills, about four kilometres north of Bridgetown.

Sprott is renewing building permits it held for properties in Arlington, Arlington West and Hampton. In April, the company asked Nova Scotia Supreme Court to overrule a municipal decision denying the renewal.

Annapolis County announced recently it was changing its planning strategy to allow Sprott to proceed with most of the turbines.

The county’s draft bylaw may be viewed on the municipality’s website at www.annapoliscounty.ns.ca.