Community Wind responds to more questions

Consulting with the local community

Consultation is an ongoing process. We had an open house in October and have distributed project updates to mailboxes in the area and on our web site.

We have invited organizers of the Facebook group and the Route 19 Community Association to share their concerns with us. We acknowledge the concerns of all the local residents who have written letters, and have answered every person who has contacted us, with direct answers to direct questions.

Feedback from community members has been considered and has led to changes in the project and its layout. Consultation will continue through the environmental assessment, the approval process, and the lifetime of the project.

We have talked to many people in the Rhodena area and feel that most people support the project. The supporters tend not to write letters or contact their MLA or councillors.

Cape Breton is a beautiful place

We agree that Cape Breton is a beautiful place, but feel that properly sited wind projects are not a blight on this beauty. We have revised our project layout as a result of comments from local residents and moved turbines away from Highway 19. We will circulate a leaflet to mailboxes in the area with this information in the next few days and the new layout will be on our web site: www.rhodenawind.ca.

It will show that the minimum distance of any turbine from any existing residence has been increased to approximately 1,750 metres, and that turbines are now over three kilometres from Highway 19. We will prepare new visualizations that reflect the updated project layout and increased turbine distance from Highway 19.

The forestry companies harvest trees in many areas of Cape Breton, and our plans intend to use the existing forestry roads and harvested areas as much as possible, to minimize the impact on undisturbed natural areas.

Health and safety

We are aware that a wind project could potentially cause some disturbance to neighbouring landowners. That is why we are increasing setbacks to much more than is required, and we believe that these setbacks will reduce or eliminate potential impacts to local residents. Studies will be completed by independent experts and will be reviewed by expert staff from the province as part of our environment assessment submission to Department of Environment and Climate Change.

Affordable power

The power from the Rhodena Wind project will be sold to Nova Scotia Power for use by Nova Scotians, as part of their efforts to end the burning of coal to generate electricity and reduce the province’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Many studies across North America, including one carried out by Nova Scotia Power, have confirmed that onshore wind is the cheapest way to generate electricity, both now and for the foreseeable future. We anticipate that the price of power paid by NSP from projects resulting from the current request for proposals will be around 5 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh), substantially less than the price of other sources of power, including coal.

NSP expects successful projects in the Request For Proposals are expected to generate approximately 1,100 gigawatt-hours of power per year, around 11 per cent of the power used in Nova Scotia. So, it could be expected that increases in power prices should slow as we generate an increasing portion of our power from onshore wind. There are other ways to generate renewable electricity, but in Nova Scotia using solar power is at least 50 per cent more expensive. Offshore wind will be an option, some day, as in Europe and the US. However, right now it is at least double the cost.

Will there be more proposals for wind farms in Cape Breton?

It is likely that places such as Cape Breton, where there is an excellent wind resource and enough space to allow for responsible siting of wind projects, will see more proposals for wind projects. Climate change will continue to impact our lives. We know that we need to change how we use energy in our daily lives.

In the short term, we can change how we produce electricity, and in the longer term we can change how we heat our homes and power our vehicles and industry. This project is expected to displace approximately 2.6 million tonnes of CO2 over its lifetime.

Land used by wildlife

The development area for the Rhodena project (the area being considered for the project) is 3,780 hectares. However, our estimate of the project footprint is expected to be less than 1,000 hectares, including the area to be used for turbines, roads and transmission lines. This could be further reduced through the use of existing roads.

Wildlife is likely to be familiar with the existing disturbances from forest harvesting activities in the same areas as we are proposing for the wind project, so we don’t expect the project to negatively impact the local populations of these species. The impact of the project on wildlife, including the space they need for winter shelter and foraging, will be considered in the environmental assessment, which will be reviewed by expert staff from the Department of Environment and Climate Change and the Department of Natural Resources and Renewables. Their recommendations will be considered by the Minister of Environment when deciding whether to grant an approval.

Is the project really environmentally friendly?

It is true; there is a lot of steel and concrete involved in the construction of wind turbines. However, many studies – including one carried out by third-party experts for our RFP submission – have confirmed that the lifetime greenhouse gas emissions for projects such as Rhodena Wind are less than 10 grams CO2 equivalent per kWh over the lifetime of the project. For comparison, the corresponding figure for power from coal plants is around 950 grams CO2 equivalent per kWh.

Another way to assess this is to calculate how long it would take for the project to offset the greenhouse gas emissions involved during construction, taking into account all of the materials used in building the wind turbines, including electrical components. Studies suggest that this happens within seven to eight months of commissioning.

How will the project contribute to the local community?

The project will feed renewable power into the local grid and produce enough renewable power for approximately 32,000 homes in Cape Breton. The project is expected to create approximately 100 well-paying local jobs during construction and $45 million worth of contracts for local businesses.

The project is expected to pay approximately $700,000 in property taxes to the Municipality of Inverness every year. The property tax rate paid by wind farms is established by provincial legislation and was set at $5,500 per megawatt of generating capacity in 2006. The tax rate increases every year at the rate of inflation and the rate is now approximately $7,000 per megawatt of generating capacity.

If the project moves forward, we will establish a local community benefit fund, which will provide grants to local organizations for community endeavours. The decision as to which grants are awarded will be made by a committee of local residents.

Keith Towse

CEO Community Wind