KENTVILLE – A huge international renewable energy company is considering development of a large-scale wind farm on North Mountain in Kings County.
Acciona Wind Energy Canada Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of the Spanish conglomerate Acciona, has optioned a large area stretching from Arlington, north of Canning, to the West Black Rock Road, near Berwick.
The 1,800 hectares stretches from the Bay of Fundy to the other side of North Mountain facing the Annapolis Valley.
The multibillion-dollar company operates 270 wind farms in 32 countries and employs 35,000 people. It operates 10 wind farms in North America, including several in Ontario.
The company began optioning land on North Mountain in 2007 and will soon erect a test tower to assess the local winds, said Paul Austin, the company’s community relations manager.
Acciona Wind Energy Canada operates 30- to 50-megawatt wind farms, with turbines that range from 80 to 120 metres in height and blade lengths from 50 to 60 metres.
“We’re at the very early stages,” Austin told councillors Tuesday at Kings County council’s regular monthly meeting of committee of the whole.
He promised that the company would conduct an in-depth public consultation as it proceeds with development.
“We want to collaborate with the community to design a plan, and that is something that will happen over the coming months and year,” Austin said in response to questions from councillors.
Many of the politicians were hearing about the proposal for the first time.
Austin said he could not disclose the cost of the development because it is too early in the process.
He said the company is aware of the Municipality of the County of Kings’ new wind turbine bylaw.
The municipality is in the process of reviewing the bylaw after public meetings and an online survey.
The county has also hired an environmental consultant to study the health and safety issues of wind turbines. The consultant is expected to report to council later this spring.
Some councillors expressed surprise at the project’s potential size, and the fact that although the company has been optioning land for five years, council is just hearing about the plan now.
“I’m feeling the health impacts right now of the stress, just hearing the presentation this morning . . . in relation to not being aware of the magnitude of the project,” said Coun. Patricia Bishop.
About 100 residents attended the meeting to hear details for the first time.
“I have many, many questions,” said Bishop.
“I certainly hope this is the first step of your public participation plan. If community members identify concerns over setback differences and health issues, what step does your company take to work with them? ”
There are no large-scale wind farms in Kings County. But the Greenfield area on South Mountain, south of Wolfville, is being considered as a potential site. Scotian WindFields has erected a test tower.
About 400 residents signed a petition expressing concerns about that plan, forcing council to reconsider the large-scale wind turbine bylaw it passed last year approving setback distances of 700 metres from the nearest homes.
Austin said Acciona, which provides 9,000 megawatts of energy worldwide, will seek input from the community and incorporate suggestions into the plan. Austin said development would take place over the next five years.
“We’re obviously in the very early stage of the process with this development. We’re in a marathon not a sprint.”
Jim Taylor, councillor for the one of the districts where the wind farm could be located, said people are not opposed to wind power, but good scientific information is crucial moving forward.
“They want to be convinced that their health is not compromised. So distance is going to be a major factor. I cannot and will not support anything that is going to jeopardize anyone’s health.”
Dick Killam, the other councillor for the North Mountain area where the project could be located, said he represents many residents “that are very concerned.”
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