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Vocal crowd greets representatives of proposed Wentworth Valley wind farm at public consultation  

Credit:  Chelsey Gould | SaltWire | www.saltwire.com ~~

WENTWORTH, N.S. – The second open house for a proposed wind farm project left some wishing they had more answers, despite being in early stages.

Of 7,849 hectares of leased land straddling the Cumberland-Colchester border in the Wentworth Valley area, 2,100 eligible hectares are being touted as a prime site for windmills by 3G Energy, Stevens Wind Ltd., and Vancouver-based Elemental Energy, connecting to Nova Scotia Power’s transmission line along the south side.

With community feedback, a 27-turbine, 150-megawatt project had been initially proposed but was reduced to a proposal of 18 turbines that would generate 100 megawatts.

Visuals of windmills from various vantage points were pictured, in contrast to the original proposal, with windmills of the highest visual sensitivity removed or set back.

“Some of those compromises came with some pretty meaningful impacts to the … economics of the project, because a lot of times we’re sort of taking some of the highest wind sites and trying to move them more out of view planes,” said Dan Eaton of Elemental Energy.

But he said it was a compromise they thought “made sense for the community.”

In keeping with the province’s goal to have 80 per cent renewable energy by 2030, and current investments in clean energy, now is the optimal time to commence the project, the proponents say.

They are also projecting an economic spinoff with local investment of 100 construction jobs and annual tax revenues of $760,000 to be split between the two municipalities.

Open house turned open discussion

Many residents expressed that they were not against green energy, but were dissatisfied with the previous open house on Oct. 4, held on a Tuesday at the recreation centre. A citizens’ group, Protect Wentworth Valley, formed shortly after.

Nancy Frame said Wentworth is a “jewel of an area,” along with recreational activities like skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, biking, hiking and snowmobiling.

“The area has just prospered especially through the pandemic, right?” said Frame. “I mean, it’s been so many people who have enjoyed the trails here, and the beauty here and the quiet here. And so that’s what scares us, is the risk to that.”

She said the layout was much better than the previous open house, which did not have posters and poor sound.

Although starting and ending as an open house format, with informative poster boards along the perimeter of the gymnasium and representatives onsite, a presentation meant to only have 10 minutes for questions was quickly overtaken by attendees who disagreed with the allotted time, chanting, “hear us.”

The presenters emphasized the valid concern that some attendees wished for time to ask questions one-on-one, and not to a crowd.

Ultimately, residents took one hour and 40 minutes sharing questions and comments, some directed and personal, with applause occasionally erupting.

Several residents felt unsure about information the company did not have, unable to get definitive answers. Representatives emphasized that it was early in process and more would be further communication down the road.

Over the past 18 months, Strum has surveyed wildlife, avifauna (birds and bats), wetlands, watercourses, habitat, noise and shadow flicker.

The studies state that the noise impact would be well below 30 decibels. The province’s limit is 40 decibels, while the municipal level is set at 36 decibels.

Tracey Mackenzie, who is a life-long migraine sufferer, said peripheral light flickering in low duration is a trigger. Gregor Wilson asked about considerations for the province’s new mainland moose recovery plan since the endangered species has been recorded there.

Also asking questions were members of the Community Liaison Committee (CLC), formed in spring of 2019, which has been working with the project to adequately accommodate community needs.

Eaton assured that all regulations and standards would be followed. Some residents wanted immediate verbal commitments that the group would be accountable for any arising issues or impacts, even those unanticipated.

Elemental Energy representative Paul Pynn extended several offers to concerned landowners to visit and examine their properties to discuss their concerns one on one.

Some stakeholders were disgruntled because they had not been consulted despite having reached out to the company. Company representatives said they now are in that consultation phase.

“That doesn’t start until you have a layout in place,” said Eaton. “This is not a fixed layout because we wanted to hear from the community and we’ve obviously made significant changes.”

Work to be done

Newly elected Colchester Coun. Victoria Lomond, who recently joined the CLC, is seeking more information and planned to ask if an open house could be held in Londonderry.

“I would love for people to reach out to me with their opinions and thoughts regarding it because I would like to be able to speak for the constituents and thus far, I really haven’t had a lot of folks from Colchester reach out to me,” Lomond said. “I think that folks on the Colchester side of things maybe don’t realize how impactful this could be for them, because I believe that it’s been focused on Wentworth.”

In response to a question from a SaltWire Network reporter, Pynn said the company plans to work with the development officers in both counties,” said Pynn.

“We’ve done presentations to council, you’ve taken feedback from council. Very honestly, I think we need to do a better job of that. But we will work very closely with both councils and with both development officers.”

These would not be the first windmills in the area. In 2006, 3G Energy and Stevens Wind constructed three nearby.

Environmental assessment work and consultation remain ongoing for the project stakeholders, before applying to the province. The aim is the commence construction in late 2022 and be operating by early 2024.

Details on the project and consultations are outlined at higginswind.com.

Source:  Chelsey Gould | SaltWire | www.saltwire.com

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

The copyright of this article resides with the author or publisher indicated. As part of its noncommercial effort to present the environmental, social, scientific, and economic issues of large-scale wind power development to a global audience seeking such information, National Wind Watch endeavors to observe “fair use” as provided for in section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law and similar “fair dealing” provisions of the copyright laws of other nations. Send requests to excerpt, general inquiries, and comments via e-mail.

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