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Cumberland County taking a six-month pause on wind farm development  

Credit:  Darrell Cole | SaltWire | January 11, 2022 | www.saltwire.com ~~

UPPER NAPPAN – As Cumberland County considers a six-month moratorium on the development of new wind farms, the group behind a proposed 100-megawatt project in the Wentworth Valley suggests a halt could kill the wind industry in that part of Nova Scotia.

Speaking to a Municipality of Cumberland public hearing, which was held virtually, Paul Pynn of Higgins Mountain Wind Farm lobbied against a moratorium, fearing it could impact his company’s plans for a project along the Cumberland and Colchester border.

“By undertaking a wholesale review of wind farm development at this specific time, we believe the county is putting projects like this in Cumberland County at a disadvantage in relation to other projects in other counties across Nova Scotia,” Pynn told the hearing. “This will send a strong signal to developers around the world that it is risky to develop good and responsible clean energy projects in the county. We believe this could drive good projects and their benefits to other counties.”

Responding to concerns from residents in the Wentworth Valley area who are opposed to the Higgins Mountain project, the municipality wants a timeout of sorts to review and possibly update its land-use bylaw. It has the option of taking another six months if needed.

Cumberland County Mayor Murray Scott said it’s not the municipality’s intention to stifle development, but he feels the bylaws need to be updated to keep up with changes to the wind industry.

“Our bylaws are 14 years old and were developed when wind turbines were 150 or 200 feet tall. There wasn’t as much development as there is today,” Scott said in a separate interview with SaltWire Network. “The industry has come a long way since then, but as the current bylaws are written, the community has virtually no say about where these turbines are located. These new turbines are 600 feet high.”

He said it’s important for the county to take the time to look at where it’s going with wind development to make sure it’s done right and with community participation, whether through plebiscites or mandatory community partnerships.

Scott said another issue that needs to be addressed is decommissioning old turbines.

“We have turbines on Higgins Mountain and Rodney that haven’t turned in years. There is absolutely no responsibility on anyone to take those down or remediate the properties,” Scott said. “We have to modernize our bylaws before our communities are overrun with these turbines. I believe in green energy, but not at all costs. We have to make sure we’re doing things right because once those towers are up, there’s no turning back.”

Carol Hyslop, who lives in Wentworth, told the hearing she favours the moratorium, adding it has been her experience that “such projects are hurriedly put through the required processes without due thought and limited public input.”

She said it’s time the quality of life of people living near turbines is given prominent and serious consideration.

“As far as that project is concerned, I can see no advantage to my community, either in long-term employment or in the cost of electricity, and can see many disadvantages both in animal habitat in an area already decimated by clearcutting and in human habitat,” Hyslop said in her written submission.

Hyslop said she’s not against green energy development, but wonders if the “same old, same old is being disguised as green.”

She said constructing large towers to produce electricity for other places, such as the United States, cannot be seen as a plus for the community.

The county is expected to make a decision on the moratorium on Wednesday, Jan. 12.

Pynn, whose company has seen opposition from both Cumberland and Colchester residents, fears the moratorium will damage the county’s reputation as a supporter of renewable energy through wind turbines.

“Cumberland County has been viewed historically as a county supportive of wind power development for a number of years and it has many of the successful wind developments in Nova Scotia, including Amherst, which is a good starting point as you enter the province,” Pynn said. “The county is viewed as a strategic location for investment and attractive to the renewable and alternative energy sector.”

Pynn said his company has been developing the Higgins Mountain project for five years. In addition to adhering to bylaws in Cumberland and Colchester counties, it feels it has gone “above and beyond” the requirements and guidelines by soliciting feedback from the community in both the development and design stages.

It established a community liaison committee and has created touchpoints with the community early in the development phase, including open houses, mailouts and consultations with First Nations groups and individual stakeholders such as snowmobile clubs.

“Based on extensive feedback we significantly altered the project to ensure it fits well within the community. This includes working with the community to reduce visible impacts and ensuring the project fits with potential tourism opportunities,” Pynn said.

Pynn said the project is expected to generate approximately $760,000 in annual municipal tax revenue – or $15 million over 20 years. It will employ approximately a hundred during the construction phase and 10 permanent full-time technician jobs.

It is also creating a community benefits fund to support projects and initiatives in both counties.

He said the county’s moratorium is ill-timed as it comes just as the province is preparing a procurement request for proposals for 350 megawatts of new renewable energy deployment.

Pynn said the current bylaw is in line with others across the province and North America, and the province has robust environmental assessment requirements, including regulations for noise.

Amy Pellerin, director of Canadian developments for Natural Forces, said there are benefits that come with hosting wind projects, including municipal tax revenue and rental fees to landowners who host the projects.

Natural Forces, which operates the two-turbine Amherst Community Wind Farm in Hastings, is co-developing the Westchester Wind Project near Westchester Mountain in partnership with 13 Mi’kmaw bands in Nova Scotia.

“The climate emergency is here and now. We in Nova Scotia have a duty to reduce our carbon footprint as a matter of urgency and the new provincial government recognizes this,” Pellerin said in her submission.

Pellerin said the Westchester project is not controversial with the site selected to minimize community impact and site layout designed, so there’s a one-kilometre setback from all local residences.

Source:  Darrell Cole | SaltWire | January 11, 2022 | 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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