© Ashley Thompson
John Woods, of Minas Basin Pulp and Power’s energy division, answers questions during a community liaison committee meeting in Ellershouse. Also pictured is Mary-Frances Lynch, the community relations manager for Minas Energy.
It seems many residents of Ellershouse have one primary question regarding a project proposal that identifies the outskirts of the village as a prime location for a seven-turbine wind farm.
What’s in it for Ellershouse?
A Community Liaison Committee (CLC) formed by project proponents Minas Energy, a branch of Minas Basin Pulp and Power, met at the Ellershouse Community Hall Nov. 13 to discuss the developing project.
About 30 people attended the open meeting, which featured an in-depth presentation by Strum Consulting’s Melanie Smith.
Smith discussed the Environmental Assessment that Strum isconductingfor the project at great length, paying particular attention to the topics of sound and shadow flicker testing.
Nova Scotia Environment requires proof that the sound generated by a turbine will not exceed 40 decibels (dba) at any residence, or gathering place that is not considered to be commercial.
“Forty is widely applied. It’s certainly one of the more conservative values,” Smith said.
“The 40 dba is intended to be protective of human sleep disturbance.”
The findings predict that NSE sound level guidelines could be met even at optimal weather conditions, with two or three receptors falling within the 35 to 40 dba range.
But Smith was careful not to promise the turbines would be completely inaudible.
“You may hear them some of the time but the sound level that you hear them has been predicted to be within acceptable limits,” she explained.
Ellershouse resident David Blanchard, a member of the CLC, noted that he stayed in a motel with three turbines nearby while visting Prince Edward Island and he didn’t notice an annoying sound.
“They are usually quieter than people think,” Smith responded.
Moving on to shadow flicker, Smith said the sun must be shining, the turbine’s blades must be turning and a window in a residence must be facing the turbine while in direct line of the sun — all within the turbine’s shadow zone — for the phenomenon to occur.
“You can’t experience any more than 30 minutes of shadow flicker on the worst day of the year,” she noted, adding that Nova Scotia Environment follows an international standard that also states that receptors cannot be subjected to more than 30 hours of shadow flicker per year.
It is predicted the wind project proposed for Ellershouse will easily meet these standards.
“Most of the receptors fall completely outside of the shadow zone and won’t experience any shadow flicker,” said Smith.
It is believed the studied receptors may experience up to 13 hours of shadow flicker per year or roughly 18 minutes per day, she added.
Minas Energy has been commissioned by the Alternative Resource Energy Authority (AREA), an organization created by the towns of Berwick and Mahone Bay, to develop the $25 million wind project mapped out for 300 hectares east of Panuke Lake. Energy produced by the turbines would feed into the electric utilities in Berwick and Mahone Bay.
At a September meeting of the Municipality of West Hants’ council, John Woods, a Minas Energy employee who chaired the recent CLC meeting, said the project would generate $60,000 to $100,000 in tax revenue for the municipality. A development agreement must be reached with the municipality for the project to come to fruition.
At the CLC meeting, Blanchard suggested the developers commit to providing the citizens of Ellershouse with an incentive for hosting the wind farm in their community.
The long-time Ellershouse resident said it’d be nice if the developers would commit to an annual grant to help with the upkeep of the community hall, or a donation of playground equipment for the neighborhood children to enjoy.
When asked why Minas is seeking the public’s approval before moving forward with the project, Woods said community backing is important to the developers.
“Our goal is to try to find a way that the community can accept this, and be happy with it.”
Those interested in visiting an operational wind turbine are invited to partake in a field trip to the 2MW Kaizer Meadow Wind Turbine, located in the Municipality of Chester, Saturday, Dec. 7. Participants will leave the Ellershouse Community Hall at 9 a.m., and are slated to return by noon. Transportation will be provided.