CARIBOU – “Not here!”
Those are the words that Eldon MacDonald repeated Saturday morning as he listened to a windfield developer speak about a proposed wind turbine project in the Braeshore area.
Andy MacCallum with Wind Prospects Inc. is looking at putting up one or two towers, which will have a capacity of 1.6 megawatts, on a piece of property formerly owned by Hughie MacDonald.
The proposal would see the wind field developed through the ComFit program, which requires 25 people from within the county to sign up as shareholders for the project. The remaining shareholders can come from other parts of the province.
MacCallum outlined several reasons why the development would be positive for the community, including decreasing the use of coal at the Trenton Generating Station, but appeared unable to sway the opinions of the 60 people who attended a meeting in the Caribou Fire Hall Saturday morning organized by a group of Braeshore residents against the project.
“They’re talking two wind turbines on this property – what’s to stop another company from coming in and asking to lease more land? We’re talking about two today, but who knows how many there will be in the future,” said Susan Moland, spokesperson of the group.
Moland says that at first glance, the project looks good. Most people support green energy, she said, but as a teacher, she decided to do her homework. What she found disturbed her enough to prompt her to start talking to other residents in the area.
“On the wind turbines proposed for our community, each blade is bigger than a Boeing 747. It’s taller than the Peace Tower in Ottawa. When you look around Braeshore, you’ll see the wind turbine, not Braeshore. We’ll lose our identity.”
Caribou Fire Chief Bill MacKay had another concern – fire. Last year, one of the turbines on Fitzpatrick’s Mountain in the Scotsburn area caught on fire.
“There’s no way to fight a fire in one of these turbines,” he said. “I spoke to the chief and deputy chief in Scotsburn and said they were very fortunate it occurred in the winter time, or they would’ve had a forest fire.”
In that fire, MacKay said, the automatic shut down system built into the tower didn’t work.
“The blades kept turning. Debris even landed on someone’s front lawn,” he said.
In the event of a fire, he added, spilled hydraulic liquid from the inner workings of the turbine would be the least of the community’s worries.
“The resin these blades are made of are very deadly,” he said, adding that toxic smoke would be emitted.
The group of concerned citizens is in the process of collecting signatures on a petition they plan to present to Pictou West MLA Charlie Parker showing their objection to the proposed development.
While the group is keeping hush on the number of signatures they’ve collected so far, they were requesting area residents who attended Saturday’s meeting add their name to the list.
“Let’s make no mistake – this is a war, it’s us against them,” said Mike Pierce, another resident who spoke out against the development. “You don’t see too many of these damn things going up around the borders of Halifax. This is a rural issue…and if these go in, we’re going to be the losers. This is an industrial machine, there will be no tranquility if these go in.”
The group plans to make a presentation to county council in the coming months and also expressed their concerns Saturday to Coun. Ed MacMaster and Warden Ronnie Baillie, both of whom attended the session.
Members of the group also expressed concerns about an existing county bylaw, which states that turbines can be erected no closer than 600 meters from a residence unless the owner of the property agrees. Several people who attended the meeting suggested that number needs to be increased to at least three kilometers and asked that county council look into changing the bylaw.
MacCallum, meanwhile, said that it would likely be two to three years before the project could go ahead because government approvals are needed. He added that Wind Prospects Inc. might decide not to go forward if the community support is not there.
“We need to know if the community wants it and I’m getting a pretty strong message that you don’t,” he said.
“If we don’t have the support, we might pull out, but I still think I might change your minds.”
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