KENTVILLE, NS – A concerned County of Kings citizen says that when it comes to the siting of large-scale wind turbines, “it’s not over until it’s over.”
Warren Peck of Black River Road said he was very pleased to see a plan he put forth in his “Proposal for Appropriate Large-Scale Wind Turbine Development in Kings County, Nova Scotia” included in presentations at public consultation sessions last September.
The sessions were intended to gather input on the municipality’s draft Municipal Planning Strategy (MPS) and Land Use Bylaw (LUB). There was a great deal of public support for Peck’s proposal expressed at those sessions.
The proposal was incorporated into the draft land use planning documents and received the unanimous endorsement of the county’s planning advisory committee (PAC) in December 2017. However, the draft documents have yet to go before Kings County council for consideration.
“I must say I was humbled on the 18th of December 2017, when there was so much unanimous and full support for that proposal,” Peck said.
Peck was among the citizens who spoke out against an ill-fated bylaw approved by council in 2011 that would have allowed large-scale wind turbines anywhere in the municipality where a setback distance of 700 metres could be achieved. In the wake of public outcry and citizen petitions, council repealed the bylaw in 2012.
“The large-scale wind turbine technology and where they were going to place it certainly didn’t show any empathy for the rural citizens,” Peck said.
Reflecting on the journey from the repealing of the bylaw to having PAC’s unanimous endorsement for his proposal, Peck said he is “elated” and it makes all the time and effort seem worthwhile. However, it was a long, difficult road in terms of remaining engaged throughout the process and Peck admits there were times when he “almost threw the towel in.”
He agreed that the worst-case scenario at this point would be if the current council fails to get the draft land use planning documents approved before the end of its term. Peck believes the turnover on council and with municipal staff since the large-scale wind debate began is one reason why the process has dragged on. The one constant has been concerned citizens.
Peck’s large-scale wind proposal
Peck said there was a “eureka moment” at a public meeting in March 2015 when a map was presented showing proposed large-scale wind turbine separation distances.
It revealed a location in southwest Kings County capable of large-scale wind energy development that could provide a minimum three kilometre separation distance between turbines and the nearest residents, perhaps as much as 3.5 km. This realization was the catalyst for his proposal. Peck said what concerns him about this is the length of time it took to identify an area in the municipality where a large-scale wind industrial park could be sited without resulting in land use conflicts. Considering that the now repealed bylaw was enacted in 2011, it makes him wonder how many other decisions are being made without decision makers being fully informed.
Peck’s proposal involves a dedicated area in the southwest portion of Kings County where large-scale wind turbines would be permitted as-of-right. You could drop the footprint of the South Canoe wind farm in Lunenburg County into the proposed area of provincial Crown land in the southwest corner of Kings.
The proposed location off Aylesford Road has many attributes indicating strong potential for wind energy development. In an earlier interview, Peck said you could easily put in 40 turbines, each standing 490 feet tall. The Kings site could generate 100 to 120 megawatt nameplate production, compared to 102 at South Canoe.
Peck said he believes the County of Kings is still in need of a well thought-out, comprehensive, holistic energy plan.
There was unanimous support for the proposal when portions of the draft Municipal Planning Strategy (MPS) and Land Use Bylaw (LUB) relating to energy were reviewed by the planning advisory committee (PAC) in December. Benefits were reviewed, including providing a minimum 3,000 metre separation distance from any existing dwelling and a similar separation distance from the Cloud Lake Wilderness Reserve. The proposed area is within a reasonable distance of a large electrical transmission line, approximately 7 kilometres.
PAC directed staff to incorporate the proposal by applying an overlay. This would continue to permit uses within the underlying Resource (N1) zone.
PAC is recommending that all property owners within five kilometres of the proposed overlay be notified in writing of the final consultation meeting and be invited to comment. The general public would also be invited to comment. Peck said he believes this provision for public consultation is of the utmost importance.
PAC is recommending that any proposed policies and regulations related to permitting large-scale wind turbines using a separation distance approach – anywhere in the municipality – be removed from the draft documents. There had been a provision in the draft to allow large-scale wind turbines where a 1,000 metre setback from existing dwellings could be achieved. Peck was pleased with this “total rejection” of a 1,000 metre separation, which rendered several other staff recommendations redundant.
PAC is also recommending that the proponents of large-scale wind turbines be responsible for decommissioning them after a period of one year of inactivity. Peck said he would be pushing for a third-party surety bond or trust for decommissioning that the proponent would have to pay into. This way, decommissioning costs couldn’t fall to the taxpayer or landowner leasing property to the proponent.
Peck said he doesn’t understand why the draft planning documents contain provisions for surety bonding for the decommissioning of photo voltaic or solar panels but not large-scale wind turbines.
Consistency is key
Peck said the draft planning documents contain no provision for a maximum height of a wind turbine but he’ll be pushing for that.
“I look for reason and I look for consistency and I look for reasonable statements and policy when I go and watch and listen to PAC and all of these debates,” Peck said.
He said it’s important to have consistency between provincial and municipal definitions of small and large-scale wind turbines. Small scale wind turbines are defined provincially as those capable of generating up to 50 kilowatts of power and can be as tall as 115 feet (35 metres). Peck said this would mean that anything over 115 feet would be considered large scale but there is no upward height limit identified.
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