AMHERST – A six-megawatt wind project originally slated for the marsh near Amherst is going forward in a new location.
Natural Forces, that includes a partnership of the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq Chiefs, plans to erect three turbines on a piece of land between the John Black Road and the Pumping Station Road.
Depending on approval of its environmental assessment, construction could begin sometime next year with the project, valued at $16 million when first announced in 2012, going operational in the fall of 2015.
“The original plan was to put the turbines on the marsh, but we opted for another location because of environmental sensitivities with the bird population there,” Andy MacCallum, vice-president of development, said Monday. “The ideal location is near the shoreline, but this location is ideal in that it’s at a higher elevation, it’s on land that is already disturbed in that there are transmission and communications towers and it’s very close to the Church Street substation so there’s easy access to the power grid.”
The project has already been approved through the COMFIT program that aims to provide a secure supply of clean energy at stable prices, build community support for renewable energy projects and create jobs.
MacCallum said Natural Forces is presently working with the Department of Natural Resources to determine what wildlife and aviary studies are required as part of the environmental assessment. He said there will be a number of other studies included in the environmental assessment that should be completed later this year.
The assessment will be released to the public for comment and go back to government for final approval in early 2015 after which building permits will be issued and construction will begin.
The turbines, he said, will be close to the height of the existing wind turbines on the marsh near Amherst. From the ground to the nacel, the height will be about 90 to 100 metres. To the tip of the blade it will be 140 to 150 metres.
Natural Forces hosted an information session on Thursday at the Super 8 in Amherst that attracted 40 or so people. MacCallum said the information session provided an opportunity to answer questions people may have as well as to provide information about the project.
MacCallum said most of the people there were supportive, but he admitted there were a few who had questions about proximity to their homes.
“The existing siting requirements from the county are 600 metres from any residential structure. Ours will be more than a kilometer away,” MacCallum said.
Pam Roberts lives on Duckling Dell and believes the turbines are too close to her home, even if they’re more than a kilometre away. She feels the setbacks should be at least two kilometres and wonders what they will do to property values in the area.
“I just think they’re too close,” she said. “I really think the county’s setback rules aren’t nearly good enough. Six hundred metres is too close and so is a kilometre. They need to be at least two kilometres away.”
Roberts has created the Facebook group Concerned citizens re: Natural Forces wind farm in Amherst where people can get information or ask questions about the project. She has also created an email account firstname.lastname@example.org .
MacCallum understands those concerns but said there will be lots of distance between the three turbines and the homes in subdivisions near the John Black Road and homes along the Pumping Station Road.
“Two kilometres is pretty excessive,” he said. “There are very few jurisdictions enforcing those kinds of setbacks.”
A similar proposal in June 2012, from Warren Community Wind, was widely opposed by residents in the area. That project, by Juwi Wind Canada and the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq Chiefs, also called for three turbines, generating two megawatts of power each.
It wasn’t successful with its COMFIT application.
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