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Wind farm’s effects on wildlife to be studied

A proposed $15-million wind energy project in Pictou County can’t start spinning until the government gets more information on its potential impact on bats, birds and moose.

Environment Minister Sterling Belliveau announced Tuesday that he needs more information about Watts Wind Energy Inc.’s McLellans Brook project.

In a letter to the company, Belliveau said he requires studies timed to assess fall bat activity in the project area, additional bird studies, analysis of moose occupancy, data delineating the project footprint and mapping of wetlands within the project area.

The four-turbine development, which could provide enough energy to power about 2,000 homes, is located seven kilometres south of Stellarton.

Construction is scheduled to begin later this year, with operations beginning in early 2014.

Watts Wind vice-president Paul Pynn said Tuesday he didn’t think the minister’s request for more information will stall the project.

“We’ve done extensive field work,” he said in an interview. “If there are any gaps, we’ll fix them quickly.”

The required bat and bird studies are to be designed in consultation with the provincial Natural Resources Department’s wildlife division.

Belliveau said additional information may be required concerning potential environmental effects if the turbines need to be relocated to address his concerns.

Watts Wind has a year to submit the additional information. The minister has 50 days from receipt of that information to make a decision.

Pynn said he plans to set up a meeting with the government as soon as possible.

“We’ll get (the information) to him as quickly as we can,” he said.

Watts Wind is organized as a Nova Scotia Community Economic Development Investment Fund. Investors in the Dartmouth company may be eligible for non-refundable provincial tax credits of up to 65 per cent.

Watts Wind is developing three wind projects totalling 18.8 megawatts, with construction planned for this year. They include wind energy developments in Ketch Harbour and Barrington.

Watts Wind has a 90 per cent interest in a 1.5-megawatt wind turbine operating near Sheet Harbour that generated 4.7 million kilowatt hours of electricity in 2012.

It also has two other early-stage projects in New Minas and Bayswater.

The company has a 20-year power purchase agreement with Nova Scotia Power Inc.