KENTVILLE – A large-scale wind farm on North Mountain in Kings County will hamper military operations at 14 Wing Greenwood, the second-largest Royal Canadian Air Force base in Canada, say base officials.
“Wind turbines will interfere greatly with 14 Wing operations,” Capt. Chris Bridges, air traffic control officer at the base said Thursday. “Constantly, we have aircraft flying over that area.”
The airbase is Canada’s second-largest, behind Trenton, with 2,600 military and civilian employees. It 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.
“That’s why we need constant and assured radar coverage,” Bridges told Kings County council’s planning advisory committee Thursday.
Bridges said individual turbines do not cause a problem, but clusters or large installations cause loss of radar coverage, interference, loss of radio communications, radar jamming and overload. They also hide normal radar targets, such as aircraft, weather and birds.
“If an aircraft without a transponder flies over the wind farm, I cannot tell what it is,” said Bridges. “The consequences could be potentially drastic.”
The turbines also create a shadow area, preventing radar from picking up traffic not just over the wind farm, but all around it, he said.
“It’s a huge and very complex issue,” said Maj. Al Harvey, manager of 14 Wing’s base operations. “We are operating an older type of radar in Greenwood right now. More modern radars can apply software-driven mitigation techniques.
“We’re a few years away from getting that radar.”
Harvey said there are things than can be done to mitigate the impact of turbines, and the base is now working with wind turbine proponents. But because of confidentiality issues, he said he cannot reveal the identity of the companies.
“We’re into dozens of files with proponents for this area,” Harvey said.
“As a council, we have to consider the base’s concerns big time in making its wind turbine policies,” said Dick Killam, a planning advisory committee member and county councillor for part of the North Mountain area.
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 wholly-owned 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.
Council passed wind turbine regulations last year, but it is now reviewing them after residents complained that there was not enough community involvement in the process.
Thursday’s committee meeting also heard from a provincial Environment Department spokesman about the environmental assessment process required for all wind turbines over two megawatts.
After Thursday’s meeting, many residents in the public gallery expressed their concerns about large-scale wind power development, especially ones related to the health, noise and financial issues such developments can possibly generate.
Another committee meeting will be held April 23 at 1 p.m. to discuss the results of a consultant’s study on the health and safety aspects of large-scale wind turbines.
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