TUSKET – Councillors in the District of Argyle are among the latest civic leaders to change their minds about how close wind turbines can be to houses.
Councillors in the rural municipality voted seven to one Thursday to keep turbines 1,000 metres away from homes.
The vote is the first step in amending the district’s current wind turbine setback bylaw that says large industrial turbines have to be at least twice the height of the turbine away from any home.
Warden Aldric d’Entremont said Friday that the planning advisory committee of council recommended changing the bylaw.
The original bylaw was established in 2004 as the Pubnico wind farm, with its 17 turbines, was being built. Because of the height of the turbines, the ones built in Pubnico could be erected as close as 242 metres from a house.
At least one family, in a home about 330 metres from the Pubnico wind farm, reported serious health concerns from the noise coming from the turbines.
When the district established its turbine setback policy in 2004, it became the first in the province to create one.
Today, the warden admitted the council of the day had little information to go by when they approved the original setback bylaw.
“I’ve been saying for a long time now, (that) 300 metres, like we have in Pubnico, is not far enough,” d’Entremont said. “If I had to do it over again I wouldn’t do it at 300 metres.”
Will 1,000 metres be sufficient?
“Most people think so,” he said.
The next step involved in changing the bylaw is a review of the proposed amendment by council, which will take place at its next public council session. That will be followed by a public hearing where council will seek the public’s input. The date for that hearing will be advertised once it is scheduled.
Sometime after the public hearing, council will have to vote and approve the amendment again before it can become law.
The council revisited the bylaw because of increased public interest in the effects wind farms have on people. The interest was piqued by a recent application to build a 50-megawatt, 16-turbine wind farm in the district near Wedgeport.
The farm, proposed by Anaia Global Renewable Energies Inc., would be about 3.5 kilometres long and about a kilometre wide at its widest point. Black Pond Road cuts across one end of the area and the villages of Little River Harbour, Comeaus Hill and Upper Wedgeport are all situated nearby.
A transmission line would also be built to carry electricity from the wind farm to Nova Scotia Power’s Tusket River generating station.
“It is anticipated that the project will be registered for environmental assessment in the fall of 2012,” a backgrounder on the project says.
“Pending approval, construction is scheduled to commence in 2013.”
Some people attended Thursday’s meeting from other parts of the province. Retired Acadia University professor Gordon Callon was one.
“It is a human rights issue,” he said, explaining his attendance.
Callon, a musicologist who and has studied sound, told the council that some jurisdictions, like the state of Victoria in Australia, have recently gone with a two-kilometre setback.
The distance between wind turbines and homes should be more than 1,000 metres because scientists have not studied the effects of wind turbines on people for a long enough period to make any kind of preliminary finding, Callon said.
And much of the information about sound coming from wind turbines is changing rapidly, he said.
“There’s also disagreement over what they’re measuring,” said Callon. “They only measure what we can hear.”
But he said some low-frequency sounds, also known as infrasound, emanating from turbines can affect a person’s ears to the point they believe they are spinning.
It makes them feel like they are seasick, he said.
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