The Ellershouse Community Hall was packed with people on a rainy Tuesday night as they came out to learn more about a proposed wind farm for the area.
The yet-to-be-named wind turbine project is being spearheaded by the Alternate Resource Energy Authority (AREA), which was created by the towns of Berwick and Mahone Bay, and is being developed by Minas Basin Pulp and Power on AREA’s behalf.
Up to seven wind turbines are being considered for a 300-hectare site located near Ellershouse.
Mary-Frances Lynch, the Minas Energy community relations manager, said the well-attended Oct. 1 open house offered residents a forum in which to discuss the project.
“People are asking questions about where the project is going to be located, what kind of benefits are going to be felt in the community. People have questions about what the turbines look like, what they sound like, what would be the effects on the environment and things like that,” said Lynch. “There are a lot of good questions that are coming out.”
Helen Tufts was one of the residents who had a lot of questions.
“I’m going to reserve my final judgement and hear some more of what they have to say,” said Tufts. “I was excited when I figured that there would be some offsets for the community and there would be offsets for power usage here but where it’s being diverted to an entirely separate district and they’re not going to have any of the environmental impacts from it, I’m not overly excited now.”
Tufts questioned company representatives about what direct benefits Ellershouse would see. She wasn’t impressed with the answer she received.
“They’re looking for the offsets to be something around the lines of hiring local talent but… there are not a lot of people in the area that have anything to do with steel, mill production, cabling,” said Tufts.
She noted the amount of tax revenue expected from the project wouldn’t go directly to the community with the turbine – it would be spread over West Hants. She predicted Ellershouse would only see a benefit of one or two per cent of the revenue generated from the project.
“I was posing questions to him [a Minas Energy representative] dealing with what are the real offsets for Ellershouse and there aren’t a whole lot from what I can tell right now,” she said.
Although the project’s power will be sent to Mahone Bay and Berwick, Lynch said the local municipality stands to benefit from its generation.
“There are definitely some benefits that will be felt in the Ellershouse community. The Municipality of West Hants will receive tax revenues from the project ranging from $60,000 a year to $100,000 and there will also be a lot of jobs that will come from this,” Lynch said.
“We hope to hire as many local people as possible. Local business will benefit. Once we start construction, a lot of people will be eating in the area, using equipment from the local area so there are some economic spinoffs.”
Lynch noted that due to Ellershouse’s proximity to the city, people will likely want to travel to the wind farm to see it in action, so there will be a tourism component as well.
West Hants Warden Richard Dauphinee attended the open house, as did several councillors, and said there was a positive atmosphere surrounding the project.
“I haven’t heard anybody against it so far. They’re just asking questions. Most people seem to be for it,” he said.
Dauphinee noted that the project is an example of municipalities working together “to keep power rates down.”
The project is pending approval from Nova Scotia Environment and West Hants. If approval is granted, construction could begin in mid-2014 and electricity could be produced by late 2015.
For more information on the project, or to put your name forward to sit on a community liaison committee, visit www.areans.ca or contact Lynch at email@example.com.