Nova Scotia Power has received the green light from the provincial regulator for its $93-million share of a controversial Lunenburg County wind farm.
The Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board approved the company’s South Canoe capital project in a written decision Friday.
The $200-million wind farm, which will be the province’s largest, is slated to be operational by the end of 2014.
South Canoe would have 34 turbines and be built on a 3,044-hectare property between Vaughan and New Russell.
The 102-megawatt project’s lead developers are Oxford Frozen Foods and Minas Basin Pulp and Power Co. Ltd.
Nova Scotia Power, which has a 49-per-cent stake in the project, would own 17 of the turbines.
A utility spokeswoman said the decision allows pre-construction work on the project to continue.
But Neera Ritcey, a spokeswoman for NSP, said site clearing has been delayed until August, pending the outcome of a second matter that’s before regulator.
“We’re still working toward a December 2014 completion date. That has not changed,” she said.
A residents group has appealed last month’s decision by the Municipality of the District of Chester to grant the wind farm a development agreement.
Members of the Friends of South Canoe Lake are concerned about the setback distances of turbines and their potential effects on residents’ health and property values. The 92-metre turbines will be at least 1.2 kilometres from the nearest home.
The board will hold a hearing starting May 30 in New Ross.
There was also word Friday that the project may wind up before the Nova Scotia Supreme Court.
A Cape Breton wind developer who fought the utility’s plan to include the project in rates said he plans to ask the court for a judicial review of the board’s decision.
“We are disappointed by the board’s decision,” Luciano Lisi, president and chief executive of Cape Breton Explorations Ltd., said in a written statement.
“We do not believe the structure of this project follows the rules set out in the competitive process, scaring investors away from Nova Scotia, and does not provide the best value for Nova Scotians.”
The board has said, and restated in the decision, that its job wasn’t to review decisions made by the province’s renewable electricity administrator.
South Canoe was awarded a contract last summer by the independent administrator, consulting firm Power Advisory LLC of Carlisle, Mass., to sell electricity to Nova Scotia Power at a fixed price for 20 years.
The regulator said the developers’ concerns about utility-backed wind farms are mostly related to policy, which is part of the provincial Energy Department’s mandate.
Lisi and other developers whose projects weren’t selected argued that Nova Scotia Power was trying to shift the project’s financial risk from the partners to ratepayers.
But the board agreed with the utility, which argued that its involvement in the wind farm, and its experience with similar projects in the past, helps lower costs for customers.
“While the interveners were concerned about the shifting of risks to the ratepayers, the board considers that ratepayers will also receive the benefit of (Nova Scotia Power’s) participation,” the ruling said.
The board also said the utility has taken “reasonable steps” to lower project risks.
However, the regulator said it would automatically reconsider the decision if Nova Scotia Power’s share of the project’s cost varies by more than five per cent above or below original estimates.
Nova Scotia Power still has to ask the board to approve another $23 million in transmission and system upgrades, needed to connect the wind farm to the grid.
South Canoe is expected to produce enough electricity to power 32,000 homes.
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