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Scotian WindFields has its say

Pretty near every seat in the house was filled Feb. 22 when concerned citizens gathered to hear presentations on wind energy projects in county council chambers during the Municipality of Kings’ committee of the whole agenda.

Scotian WindFields chief operating officer Daniel Roscoe was first to present and answer councillor questions. He said there is some confusion and uncertainty about proposed wind energy projects in Kings County.

“I hope this is the start of a process to better engage the community,” Roscoe said.

The province has committed to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions to 10 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020. Roscoe said coal-fired electrical generation is the main contributor. The cost of fossil fuels is volatile, beyond our control and going up.

Nova Scotia imports more than 90 per cent of its energy, so money is leaving the province to buy fossil fuels.

“To make sure money stays in Nova Scotia, we have to ensure ownership of the projects is local,” Roscoe said.

The wind energy projects Scotian WindFields has proposed for Kings County are under the provincial Community Feed-in Tariffs (COMFIT) program. Roscoe said the feed-in tariff is a tool used around the world to encourage renewable energy development.

Scotian WindFields started in concept in Windsor in 1999. Roscoe said eight Community Economic Development Investment Fund groups were established across the province, including Glooscap WindField in Kings. The group pooled its money to form Scotian WindFields Inc. There are currently 15 people employed throughout the province to help develop projects.

Roscoe said the Kings County projects are in the preliminary stage and there wouldn’t be any turbines installed until 2013 at the earliest. Because of 14 Wing Greenwood’s radar station, no wind turbines can be installed within a 25 nautical mile radius, limiting potential wind energy development to the South Mountain and Blomidon ridge.

There has been a metering tower in White Rock for about four years, before the county had any policy on large-scale wind turbines. There is a metering tower on Peck Meadow Road for the proposed Greenfield project. A permit application is in process with the municipality. There is a third project proposed for the Greenfield area with no metering tower currently associated with it.

There are a number of variables that make a site suitable, Roscoe said. Large-scale wind turbines cannot t be located in the middle of nowhere, he added, because projects become more expensive the further away from three-phase power they are located.

Roscoe said there have been independent reviews in other areas that found the health effects of wind turbines “negligible.” This statement was met with a collective groan from the gallery.

“Don’t take my word for it, read the reports,” he said.

In response to a question from Coun. Eric Smith about what would happen if there were ever a fire in a turbine, Roscoe said it would not require an intervention and it would burn itself out.

In response to a question from Coun. Dick Killam about what would happen to the turbines if the company went bankrupt, Roscoe said he was not certain he had an answer.. He said another company would probably be willing to take on the turbine if that happened, but there are no guarantees.

Roscoe added the company would return the land back to the way they found it if their lease with the landowner were to end.

He agreed to meet downstairs with the concerned residents following the presentations to answer questions. Roscoe said Scotian WindFields is committed to meeting with communities on a local level on a more thorough basis and suggested holding a public forum at Acadia University to have a better discussion on wind energy.

Did you know?

– As a requirement of the COMFIT program, all electricity generated must be consumed locally. Scotian WindFields chief operating officer Daniel Roscoe said it’s more efficient to consume power where you’re producing it.

– Roscoe said all their projects are developed with a community dividend, meaning one per cent of all proceeds from a turbine stay in the host community, with the community getting to decide how the money is spent. This would amount to approximately $8,000 to $9,000 per turbine per year.

– Scotian WindFields is a for-profit company that doesn’t receive provincial or federal subsidies. CEDIF investors get a tax incentive and dividends and the landowner or leaseholder makes money.

– The proposed Peck Meadow Road project in Greenfield would have an overall cost of about $5 million. Although no turbine has been ordered, the overall height of the tower and blade would probably be between 120 and 150 metres.

– Roscoe said tax revenue from such a turbine wouldn’t be significant, about $6,000 per megawatt generated, split between the municipality and province.

– COMFIT program contracts are for 20 years, about the design life of a utility scale wind turbine. Contracts are for 13 cents per kilowatt-hour of electricity produced, with the price fixed for 15 years. In Europe, 20 or 30 year old turbines are being upgraded.