ELLERSHOUSE – The proponents behind the Ellershouse Wind Farm are seeking approval to add up to seven more turbines to the site.
The project is owned by the Alternative Resource Energy Authority (AREA), an entity comprised of the towns of Berwick, Mahone Bay and Antigonish. AREA hired Minas Energy to oversee the management and development of the wind farm located about 11 kilometres southeast of Windsor.
Minas Energy recently filed an Environmental Assessment Registration document with Nova Scotia Environment seeking the necessary approvals to construct up to seven new Enercon E92 turbines in Ellershouse.
The assessment document, prepared by Strum Consulting in Bedford, indicates that the expansion would create opportunities to generate an additional 16.4 megawatts (MW) of energy.
“As part of this overall strategy, the project will contribute to meeting Nova Scotia’s renewable energy goals by producing enough green energy to provide 4,500 NS homes with stable, locally-produced renewable energy,” the registration document reads.
If the project gets the green light from Nova Scotia Environment, Minas Energy is prepared to start building in 2017.
“Next summer we have a schedule slated for three more turbines,” said Kris Maclellan, energy project co-ordinator for Minas Energy.
Minas considers the proposed expansion to be phase three of a project that saw four turbines constructed in the summer of 2015 and three more installed the following summer.
To date, Maclellan said the seven-turbine project carries an estimated worth of more than $24 million.
“We used 31 local companies in the process of creating the project. That’s everything from catering services down to the actual commissioning of the turbines and very technical work.”
A community liaison committee was formed to open the lines of communication between wind farm proponents and the residents of Ellershouse.
“People have now been living with the farm a kilometre away in some cases for over a year now and I think they’ve come to understand through experience that the turbines are not harmful and that they don’t intrude on the day-to-day life of people in Ellershouse,” said Maclellan, who noted that a Community Sponsorship Fund worth $5,000 for every year the project is in operation was established as a way to give back to the host community.
The main concerns raised by residents in the early stages of the wind farm centered around shadow flicker, noise generated by the turbines and the impact on wildlife.
Maclellan said bat and bird monitoring stations are in place, and testing has been done to measure sound and review shadow flicker.
The fact that the wind farm is a result of municipal units collaborating to create a renewable energy asset makes the Ellershouse project stand out from the rest, Maclellan said.
“There’s never been a project like the Ellershouse Wind Farm… we’ve built something here that is really, truly unique in Canada.”
What’s in it for Berwick?
The three municipal units that backed the Ellershouse Wind Farm all operate electric utilities.
“Antigonish, Berwick and Mahone Bay are the owners and the Riverport Electric Light Commission is a customer,” said Town of Berwick CAO Don Regan.
The energy produced in Ellershouse feeds into Nova Scotia Power’s substation in St. Croix.
“We pay what’s called a transmission tariff to move the energy to our towns,” said Regan.
The residents of Berwick and Berwick Electric Commission customers stand to benefit from the power purchase agreements struck through AREA, Regan said.
“The pricing in those (agreements) will allow the utilities to stabilize rates to some extent,” said Regan, who also serves as superintendent of the Berwick Electric Commission.
“There’s a benefit to the town and the electric customers because of the pricing involved.”
It is anticipated the Minister of Environment will make a decision on the expansion application by Jan. 16, 2017.
Members of the public have until Dec. 17 to submit comments that will be included in the review process by contacting Nova Scotia Environment at 902-424-3600 or EA@novascotia.ca.