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Sustainable development group raises concerns about Colchester wind farm proposal

EverWind Fuels is planning to build up to 78 wind turbines north of Debert

A group of citizens who advocate for sustainable development in northern Nova Scotia say they are concerned about how quickly a new clean energy project is moving forward, and are questioning how "green" it will really be.

EverWind Fuels is planning to build up to 78 wind turbines north of Debert in Colchester County. They will eventually power a proposed green hydrogen plant in Point Tupper in Cape Breton, according to the company, producing ammonia and hydrogen that will be exported to other countries including Germany, which has already signed agreements with Canada.

Last month, Colchester's municipal council voted down bylaw amendments that would've delayed new wind farms in the county for at least a year, giving them more time to fully develop a municipal planning strategy and a land-use bylaw. 

Margaretta Sander, who is a member of Sustainable Northern Nova Scotia, was one of 22 people who made presentations to council on the topic, most of whom wanted the pause.

"I mean, if you're going to build a house, you make a plan first. You don't just start putting up boards and making a foundation. You need to have a plan," Sander told CBC Radio's Information Morning Halifax on Monday.

Colchester County Mayor Christine Blair said the municipality already has a strict, standalone wind turbine bylaw that outlines location conditions, licensing requirements, operations conditions, building requirements, decommissioning costs and public consultation.

The county is also in the process of creating a municipal planning strategy and countywide land-use bylaw, which is due by Dec. 31, 2024.

"That pause wouldn't have done anything specific. Given the fact that we have a very stringent bylaw in place now, our council decided by majority vote that the pause was not necessary," Blair told Information Morning on Tuesday.

"We believe that our bylaw will be very effective, and that will do the job that we need to have done."

Sander said another of her concerns is how "green" the EverWind project will really be, despite the company saying the plant will be fully powered by renewable electricity from local wind-energy suppliers.

"In order to create green hydrogen, it needs to be 100 per cent green, and this proponent will be using our grid," Sander said.

"So in other words, they're sending the energy — the wind energy — through our grid, which is not decarbonized yet and it's run on fossil fuel."

EverWind CEO Trent Vichie has said using wind farms to power the production plant will require the company to invest in the province's power grid, but it will also add more renewable sources to the system as it transitions away from fossil fuels.

Nova Scotia has been looking to ramp up wind and solar energy production to decarbonize the grid by 2030. The province currently generates 60 per cent of its electricity from fossil fuels, mostly coal.

Sander said she's not opposed to wind projects in Nova Scotia, but she'd prefer they be used to create energy for the province, rather than being sent overseas.

"These kinds of things can actually benefit Nova Scotians, if they're done in a kind of community, local place, where people invest in it and they get investment returns from it," she said.

Vichie said last month that talks are underway for the development of storage and distribution systems for green energy use in Nova Scotia, but that would constitute a second phase of the development.

Blair said the project is moving forward, and will help Nova Scotia achieve its "ambitious carbon emissions plan."

"Global warming is something that affects everyone," he said, "and whatever we can do in our own small way to benefit the easing of that problem is something that we should be doing."

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