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Windmill farm proposal near Nova Scotia base worries air force

GREENWOOD, N.S. – Military officials say a wind farm in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley will hamper flights at a nearby Royal Canadian Air Force base.

Capt. Chris Bridges, air traffic control officer at the Greenwood base, said Thursday that wind turbines on North Mountain would interfere with military flights over the hilly area.

The air base is Canada’s second largest and is responsible for search and rescue operations, sovereignty patrols, overseas missions, and fisheries and other ocean surveillance.

Aircraft flying out of Greenwood include Cormorant search and rescue helicopters, Aurora patrol aircraft, Hercules transport planes and occasionally CF-18 jet fighters.

Bridges told a Kings County council planning committee Thursday that the base needs constant and assured radar coverage.

He said individual turbines do not cause a problem, but clusters or large installations cause loss of radar coverage, interference, loss of radio communications and radar jamming.

They also hide normal radar targets, such as aircraft, weather and birds.

The turbines also create a shadow area that prevents radar from detecting traffic not just over the wind farm, but all around it, he said.

Maj. Al Harvey, manager of operations at Greenwood, said there are things than can be done to mitigate the impact of turbines and the base is now working with wind turbine proponents.

The meeting was attended by more than 100 citizens, many of whom recently learned of a proposed large-scale wind farm development on North Mountain.

The residents are seeking more information on the proposed development by Acciona Wind Energy Canada Inc., a subsidiary of the Spanish conglomerate Acciona.

The multibillion-dollar international renewable energy 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 wind resource.

It operates 30- to 50-megawatt wind farms, with turbines that range from 80 to 120 metres in height and blade lengths that range from 50 to 60 metres.

It has optioned 1,800 hectares of land stretching from the Bay of Fundy coast to the other side of North Mountain facing the Annapolis Valley.

The North Mountain project involves the possible installation of 20 to 30 large turbines.

The Kings County Council passed regulations on wind turbines last year, but it is now reviewing them after residents complained that there was not enough community involvement in the process.