Where the Berwick and Mahone Bay partnership’s alternative energy project might be became less of a mystery Tuesday night.
Members of West Hants municipal council got their first look at a $25 million wind power project being planned for a 300-hectare site located near Ellershouse at their Sept. 24 meeting.
The project is being spearheaded by the Alternate Resource Energy Authority (AREA) created earlier this summer by the towns of Berwick and Mahone Bay. Both towns have their own electrical utilities and will own the project, which could see the construction of up to seven wind turbines on property located south of Panuke Lake. The authority is currently waiting for borrowing authority from the province to fund the project, but the towns recently confirmed their commitment by agreeing to temporary borrowing resolutions for their respective shares of $16.8 million and $8.2 million.
Read more about Berwick’s participation.
The yet-to-be-named project is being developed by Minas Basin Pulp and Paper on AREA’s behalf. In their presentation to council, energy team members John Woods and Chris Peters laid out the company’s efforts to date and the proposed timeline for getting the new wind farm on the grid, hopefully by late-2015. Woods explained the project is in development to further the partner’s goal of reaching provincially- mandated targets for renewable electricity, set at 25 per cent by 2015 and 40 percent by 2020.
“Tonight is the start of our community engagement piece as part of the environmental assessment,” said Woods. He touted the benefits of the project which he said would include annual tax revenues of between $60,000 to $100,000 for the municipality, a bump in business for local hotels, restaurants during the construction phase, and the potential for new, locally-based jobs.
“We are currently assessing local capabilities,” noted Woods, adding he is open to suggestions on that issue.
The general public will have an opportunity to check out the project at an open house Oct. 1 from 6:30 to 9 p.m. at the Ellershouse community hall. Other components of community engagement include the development of AREA’s website and a newsletter with project details recently circulated to the nearby community. Woods said a community liaison committee would be formed to represent local interests.
“We are looking forward to getting this going,” he added.
District 2 Coun. Shirley Pineo was the first to respond to the presentation.
“I am really excited about this,” she said. “Everywhere you go you are seeing more (wind towers). They are the way of the future.”
Coun. Randy Matheson, District 3, also expressed support for the project, although somewhat hesitantly.
“I am excited, but also nervous. People can be affected by these (developments.)”
He said he has concerns about the possible effects of infrasound: low frequency sounds that they can’t be picked up by the human ear but can carry through the atmosphere and have been associated with health problems reported by some people who live close to wind farms.
Peters responded the project setbacks would be in compliance with scientific evidence, adding the nearest residence is located one kilometer away from the site.
Warden Richard Dauphinee was also supportive of the project, calling it “a good fit for the municipality.” He said the proponents have been “very transparent” in their approach and he hopes for a good reception among local residents.
“Then again there are some people that if you dropped a block of gold on their lawn they would say you killed their grass,” he concluded.
Berwick’s Coun. John Prall, who also sits on the Berwick Electric Commission and is chairman for AREA, attended the presentation with Mahone Bay Mayor Joe Feeney.
“This is the largest project that we have ever been involved in. We have been in this business a long time and we are ready to take another step,” Prall said.
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