AMHERST – Natural Forces was at the Amherst Fire Hall Thursday to talk about their proposed wind farm.
The proposed wind farm would be constructed on private land between the John Black Road and Pumping Station Road, across from the Amherst Golf Club.
While representatives from Natural Forces spoke inside the fire hall, people opposed to the wind farm were beginning to gather for a peaceful protest outside the fire hall. About 20 people gathered for the protest.
One of the biggest concerns the group has is that home values near the $16-million, three-turbine, six-megawatt wind project will be negatively affected.
Amy Pellerin, development engineer at Natural Forces, says home devaluation is often a concern among homeowners during the development and construction phase of wind farms, but those concerns fade over time.
“There’s ton’s of studies out there and research that’s been done in Canada, and also internationally, that show’s it’s (home values) not effected by wind farms,” said Pellerin.
Natural Forces has one operational wind farm in Nova Scotia. The Fairmont Wind Farm opened in 2012, and is located six kilometres north of Antigonish.
Asked if property values have been affected by homes close to that wind farm, Andy MacCallum, vice president of developments at Natural Forces, says they haven’t studied the impact on property values in the area.
“But as far as feedback from the community the wind farm’s been up and running for almost two years now and there’s been nothing but positive feedback, and that’s normal,” said MacCallum. “Every community is different. You tend to get push back in the opening phase but once the wind farm is up and running it really tends to drop away as people start to see that it’s not having a negative impact.”
The proposed turbines are much like the turbines on the Tantramar Marsh. The turbine towers will be 100 metres tall, with tip-of-the-blades height reaching close to 150-metres high.
The turbines will be 1,000 from the nearest home.
The Municipality of Cumberland County has set the county setback distance at 600 metres.
Pellerin’s says decisions about setback distances have a lot to do with the terrain where the turbine is built.
“It’s done on a case-by-case basis,” said Pellerin. “That’s why the noise and shadow studies aren’t based on distance but based on the terrain.”
Many people think the setback for Cumberland County should be at least 2,000 metres. MacCallum disagrees.
“Municipalities don’t want to recreate the wheel,” said MacCallum.
A 2,000 metre setback would pretty well eliminate the construction of wind turbines in Cumberland County.
“The process is there to protect the environment and to protect the community members with the guidelines,” added MacCallum. “If a municipality comes in and sets a two-kilometre setback it’s kind of discrediting the entire process.”
Natural Forces is currently in the Environmental Assessment stage with the Amherst wind farm.
“The environmental assessment hasn’t been registered yet and there hasn’t been a completion of studies yet, so that’s an important part of what we’re going through right now,” said MacCallum
Once compiled, the EA document is sent out for review by both the government and the public.
“The assessment is open to everybody,” said MacCallum. “There will be several copies in Amherst, it will be on line, we’ll send notices out and we’ll likely have another meeting to present the results of the EA.”
The public will have 30 days to make comments about the EA, and then the Nova Scotia minister of environment, Randy Delorey, will decide if the EA meets all environmental guidelines.
If the EA is approved, construction of the wind farm could begin in early 2015 and complete by late 2015.
“There’s not a whole lot of clearing that needs to be done, the land in that area is mostly deforested,” said MacCallum. “There are spring weight restrictions as well, so construction could start in the spring.”
Three partners are developing the project.
“There’s the Mi’kmaq. With them we set up a company, and that company is basically represented by all 13 bands (in Nova Scotia), said MacCallum. “They own half of the farm. The other half is made up of Natural Forces and CEDIF.
CEDIF is the Community Economic Development Investment Funds.
CEDIF allows the public to invest in the wind farm.
“We’re opening this up to anybody to invest in the project and to own part of the wind farm,” said MacCallum. That group of investors will probably be people from Cumberland County, Halifax and all over Nova Scotia, and the minimum investment is $500.”
If the project gets the go-ahead, raising funds through CEDIF will begin in early 2015.
“The CEIDF side of things isn’t something we start early,” said MacCallum.
“We invite people to invest in the project once we ticked a lot of those boxes of trying to get the project up and running, such as the Environmental Assessment, because we don’t want people to invest in an early-stage project,” he said. “There’s a lot of risk there and we won’t get a lot of investors. We want them to invest in something that’s real and something that’s likely to go ahead.”
About 20-people gathered for the peaceful protest outside the fire hall.
After the protest, most of them made their way inside to talk to the representatives from Natural Forces and from the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq Chiefs.
The group protesting the wind farm say they weren’t consulted about the wind farm in any way, shape or form, and believe the entire process is flawed from A to Z.
The provinces energy minister, Andrew Younger was in Amherst two weeks ago. He said his department cannot legally revoke the permit to build the wind farm.
The group sent a letter to the minister, which in part says:
“During your recent visit to Amherst, you were quoted in the Amherst Daily News as follows:
“That project, the permit was issued in 2012 and the Energy Department does not have any legal authority to revoke a permit that was previously issued.”
The letter to the minister says that is not true:
“Under Section 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33 and 43 of the Renewal Energy Regulations, the Minister has a number of options available to address COMFIT (Community Feed-in Tariff) approvals which were approved with no Community engagement or support and questionable tactics to gain COMFIT approval.
“Based on our research, the optics for this Comfit approval appear to have been tarnished by the proponents and we ask the Minister to fully investigate this application to ensure all Regulations under Renewal Act were adhered in the manner in which they were written. Furthermore, we ask the Minister to provide us with a written plan of action and timeline to address our concerns with the project.”
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