HALLS HARBOUR – A international energy company interested in building a large-scale wind farm on North Mountain says it’s not deterred by talk of a moratorium in Kings County.
Acciona Wind Energy Canada Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of the Spanish conglomerate Acciona, will continue with its plans to develop a 30-megawatt to 50-megawatt wind farm on 1,800 hectares of land it has optioned for lease between Arlington and the West Black Rock Road, says a company spokesman.
“While we are in the early stages of development and years from potential construction, the plans for our project remain in place at this time,” project development manager Hemanth Shankar said in a recent email.
“Many Nova Scotia landowners look forward to hosting a wind turbine on their property and helping Nova Scotia meet its goals for producing clean energy.”
His comments came just days after Kings County council approved first reading of a motion to put all wind power development on hold while it studies the issue further. That could take as long as a year.
Shankar acknowledge the company is subject to public regulations.
“We will continue to work with the citizens of Kings County to ensure residents have fact-based answers to their questions, so that wind energy can contribute local economic benefits, create new jobs and help the province become a leader in clean energy,” he said.
The multibillion-dollar company owns 270 wind farms in 32 countries and employs 35,000 people. It currently operates 10 wind farms in North America, including several in Ontario.
The company began optioning land on the North Mountain in 2007. The plan calls for 20 to 30 turbines that range from 80 metres to 120 metres in height.
“I didn’t think they were backing off and that proves it right there,” said Dick Killam, a Kings County councillor, said Friday after hearing the company’s position.
“We still have a lot of fighting to do here. Some landowners are hell bent on moving this forward.’’
Killam represents the district that includes the portion of the North Mountain where the wind farm has been sited and the the tourist destination of Halls Harbour. He opposes the proposed devleopment.
Some people in Halls Harbour and area are already listing their properties for sale in anticipation of the wind farm, he said.
County council approved wind turbine regulations last year that would have allowed energy companies to build wind farms if they met all the municipal bylaws, including a 700-metre separation distance from the nearest home.
But earlier this week, council approved first reading of a motion that would put all wind power development on hold while the municipality conducted futher studies. Second reading of that motion is expected in July, following a public meeting scheduled for June 20 at 7 p.m.
If passed, the motion must then be approved by the province before coming into effect.
Council is also considering rescinding its current bylaw and imposing a five-year moratorium on all wind power development. It has referred the matter back to its planning advisory committee for further study and recommendations.
The moves come in response to opposition from residents of the North Mountain and Greenfield area on the South Mountain, where a smaller development by Scotian Windsfields is proposed.
Residents, who have been coming out in large numbers to public meetings, presented council with a 1,000-name petition, in which they asked for a 2.5-kilometre separation distance from the nearest home, which could potentially prohibit any wind farm projects in the county.
The issue is creating an urban-rural divide, with city dwellers pushing for more alternative energy sources, said Killam. But that energy would come at the cost of rural Nova Scotians, who fear health impacts, decreased property values and loss of tourism potential, he said.
Siting a large wind farm in Halls Harbour would be like putting one in Point Pleasant Park, Killam argued.
Wind energy developers need to work better with the communities they’re targeting for projects, he said.
Opponents claim that Acciona tried to sneak in the back door. It’s been optioning land on the North Mountain for the past five years, but only informed the public of its plans for a large development last March.
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