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Hants County’s Benjamins Mill eyed for future wind development by Halifax-based Natural Forces

A Halifax-based energy company has begun plans for a 50- to 150-megawatt wind farm in West Hants.

Natural Forces is an independent power producer focused on renewable energy production. In business since 2001, Natural Forces has 15 renewable energy sites in operation with four more in development and construction.

The Benjamin Mills project is in the very early stages of development, said Amy Pellerin, senior development manager with Natural Forces. The proposed 10 to 28 turbines would be able to supply between 17,000 to 50,000 homes with electricity. Pellerin said the size of the project will be determined soon.

“It could go up to 150 megawatts. We don’t want to shy away from saying this could be the potential for this project,” said Pellerin.

The government of Nova Scotia announced a long-anticipated Rate-Based Procurement for low-impact renewable energy on July 10. Pellerin and her company are now waiting for the program to issue requests for proposals, which will help determine the size and shape of the Benjamins Mill development.

Location, location, location

“It’s a fantastic location for a project,” said Pellerin.

The proposed site is around 1.5 kilometres from homes and there is already a high-voltage transmission line running through the area, said Pellerin. Additionally, there are only two landowners – a forestry company and the province.

The land has been logged recently so there are several forestry roads through the site. And, because the land is already disturbed from logging activity, wind turbine installation will have less impact on the environment than if it was located in mature woodland, which is another positive, said Pellerin.

Natural Forces is conducting environmental studies on the area now to assess the animal populations as well as locations of wetlands and rivers.

In June, Natural Forces met with the council of West Hants Regional Municipality to discuss its potential plans.

Past wind developments have been generally well-received in the community said West Hants’ Chief Administrative Officer Mark Phillips.

“The project as they have it proposed, we understand, should it be approved, it does comply with all requirements,” said Phillips. “We’re getting a bit more comfortable with these things (developments), but there’s still a regulatory process we need to go through for approvals.”

What’s in it for West Hants?

Phillips said it’s positive for this municipality to be part of the renewable energy movement, but that’s not the only benefit to the region.

“The other side of it is the economic impacts, whether it’s the job creation during the construction phase and the ongoing construction phases, or whether it’s the property taxes that are generated,” said Phillips.

Down the road, if the municipality gives the OK to the project, there will be a dedicated meeting for residents to express any concerns or ideas to council as the project moves forward, Phillips said.

To address any early concerns, Natural Forces hosted an open house at the South West Hants Fire Hall on July 19.

Pellerin said the earliest that construction could start would be in late 2022. Natural Forces welcomes any feedback or questions and contact information can be found on the company’s website.