Community opposition led to rejection of Rhodena Wind Farm application

One local wind project was selected and another was rejected to take part in a power purchase agreement with Nova Scotia Power (NSP).

In a press release issued on Aug. 17, CustomerFirst Renewables (CFR), the procurement administrator for the provincial government, announced the successful energy projects, including WEB Weavers Mountain Wind in the Antigonish and Pictou County area, which will be developed by SWEB Development and Glooscap First Nation.

Successful projects will receive a 25-year Power Purchase Agreement with NSP for the sale of their renewable electricity, according to the release. They must secure all required regulatory permits and approvals, including an environmental assessment which involves holding community consultations, CustomerFirst noted.

According to the release, the Rate Base Procurement (RBP) portfolio was chosen through an independent, objective and open procurement process. The company said the portfolio is comprised of five projects, totaling 372 megawatts or 1,373 gigawatt hours per year of renewable low-impact electricity production representing approximately 12 per cent of Nova Scotia’s total electricity consumption.

Gary Farha, CEO and founder of CFR said the procurement was created in consultation with the province and other key stakeholders. He said the process was designed to capture renewable energy projects that deliver the best value to ratepayers, meaningful engagement and ownership with the Mi’kmaq and other underrepresented communities, and a positive economic impact for local supply chains.

The average energy rate of the RBP portfolio is $53.17 per megawatt hour, the company said, noting this delivers “tangible value” for Nova Scotia ratepayers, by being lower than the average cost of electricity in Nova Scotia. They said these projects will save ratepayers an estimated $120-million annually over the next 25 years.

The projects will be operational by the end of 2025 CFR noted. They said the projects will reduce Nova Scotia’s greenhouse gas emissions by more than one million tonnes annually, are expected to generate more than $550-million in construction activity, and create about 2,000 direct and indirect jobs.

CustomerFirst said all projects made corporate commitments to diversity, equity and inclusion and each project has committed to providing benefits to local communities such as training, skill development, capacity building, grants or scholarships.

Each project is majority owned by one or more Mi’kmaq communities in Nova Scotia, CustomerFirst said, ensuring that Indigenous communities are “meaningfully engaged” and will see positive benefits as a result of renewable development in the province.

Crystal Nicholas, President, Wskijinu’k Mtmo’taqnuow Agency, said this project will provide green energy to Nova Scotia, at a competitive price, while also bringing economic and other benefits to all 13 Mi’kmaq communities in Nova Scotia.

According to CustomerFirst, the projects will produce up to 1.3 million megawatt hours of wind power each year. By adding nearly 12 per cent more renewable electricity to the grid, they said these projects will bring Nova Scotia to 70 per cent of electricity generated from renewables.

The projects also support the province’s goals for a 53 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and becoming net-zero by 2050, CustomerFirst said, adding that this initiative represents the largest potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from a single government procurement.

Kelsey Lane, senior climate policy coordinator with the Ecology Action Centre, said the projects show that the transition to renewables is more affordable than perpetuating the use of fossil fuels to generate electricity.

Meanwhile, a proposal from Community Wind for a 100 megawatt, 18-turbine wind farm along Route 19 on approximately 8,000 hectares of Crown and private land between Long Point and Creignish was turned down by CFR.

Inverness MLA Allan MacMaster said his office “received many concerns” about the proposed project, and he’s satisfied the decision will put the minds of local property owners at ease.

The public opposition that MacMaster alluded to was on display during the regular monthly meeting of Inverness Municipal Council on April 7 when businessman Joe Shannon made a presentation, followed later in the meeting by David Hart, with the Route 19 Community Association.

Shannon noted that a project needs to be relocated when there is local opposition, and he told council there are “lots of other areas in the County of Inverness where you can build a wind farm.”

Shannon predicted that the wind farm would “destroy so many lives for so many people who worked all their life to retire.”

Noting that land ownership is a source of wealth in the region, especially for those without the guarantee of a government pension; Shannon said mortgage companies are reviewing whether they want to continue backing homes within a certain distance of wind turbines because of lower resale values.

With 360 wind farm applications denied in the United States, Shannon said Canadian authorities are also giving these projects more scrutiny.

Hart, a 20-year resident of Inverness County, said the association submitted documents to council detailing their opposition.

Calling it a “massive industrial project” that will “change the landscape for decades to come,” Hart said the project would be the largest of its type in Atlantic Canada.

Hart said the project does not protect the peaceful use and enjoyment of properties, pointing to the 40 decibel noise level for wind farms. Along with mechanical failure, Hart said there are issues like leakage and fire with wind farms.

An open house hosted by Community Wind last September was described by Hart as more of a presentation than an engagement where the company pushed its narrative, and Inverness Deputy Warden Catherine Gillis agreed.

While engaging residents, Hart said the group found that many know little about the location, scope, and potential impact of the project.

Since the tourism industry is so important to Inverness County, Hart said it should be not be undermined.

Hart also took issue with the property tax revenue the municipality will receive, and said the project offers no opportunities for partnerships, investment, and significant employment.

Shannon and Hart appeared before council in response to a presentation during the March 3 council meeting by Community Wind’s Keith Towse.

Towse calculated that with taxes currently levied on wind turbines across Nova Scotia at a rate of $7,000 per megawatt that means an estimated $700,000 annually in Inverness County’s coffers.

Towse said they expected there will be 100-200 jobs during construction, they were planning to do 70 per cent of their work through local businesses, and there was expected to be seven to 10 full-time permanent jobs if it gets up and running.

Despite the promises from Community Wind, local opposition was large and vocal enough that even if the project was approved in the procurement process, there was no guarantee it would have proceeded.

To have a well-known and respected businessman like Shannon, and a long-time member of the local business community like Hart, in addition to a growing number of residents and landowners standing in firm opposition, was the death blow for the Rhodena Wind project.

But that means the proposed site is now off the table. There are other locations in Inverness County and other parts of the Strait area which could easily house this project.

If they are able to win over the public and elected officials with the new site, perhaps this project will take-off in a different form.