AMHERST – Sprott Power opened their proposed Amherst Wind Power Expansion Project to the public during a public meeting Tuesday at the Amherst Wandlyn Inn.
The project includes: Up to 30 wind turbines, most of which would be built on the Tantramar Marsh, East of the Trans-Canada Highway; four meteorological towers, two of which would be built West of the highway and two East of the highway; the uses of existing roads and disturbed lands as much as possible; an equipment staging area; underground electrical distribution lines; and the use of the existing substation which was built on the West side of the highway where 15 wind turbines were built during Phase 1 of the project.
The public meetings ran from 5 to 8 p.m., and about 40 people came and went during the meeting.
“Most (people) were favourable but we had a small number of people who were concerned about noise,” said Don Bartlett, Sprott Power chief operating officer. “That was about five people.”
People attending the public meeting learned that the expansion project encompasses approximately 1,200 hectares, and is situated on private, rural lands primarily used for agriculture and forestry operations.
The electricity generated by the project will be connected to Nova Scotia Power Inc.’s existing transmission line located West of the project along highway 104, and the electricity generated by the turbines will be delivered to the Nova Scotia power grid for use by Nova Scotians.
The public meeting is part of the Request For Proposal process, which calls for input from the public, and is submitted to the Nova Scotia Department of Energy.
Sprott is competing with other companies for the opportunity to build the wind turbines, and they must submit their RFP by June 15.
If Sprott is awarded the contract Bartlett said the expansion could be generating electricity by the end of 2013.
“We understand the government is hoping to reward contracts by the end of July,” said Bartlett. “Should that be the case, and assuming our proposal is successful, we’ll be finishing our assessment this coming fall.”
The assessment includes bird and bat studies, noise analysis, setback requirements, plant studies, wetland studies, changes to the view-scape, and how developers plan to avoid and minimize other environmental impacts associated with the project.
Although they built the first phase of the project and put much of the infrastructure in place, it is no guarantee Sprott will win the contract to build the expansion.
“The competitors may not have the same level of experience and knowledge of the true cost of developing a wind farm, so they may submit a lower cost, and that is something we have not control of,” said Bartlett. “Our proposal might be competitive from all the right perspectives but it might not win because it depends on what the other bids are.”
One of the perspectives Sprott emphasized at the public meeting was a savings of $11 million by using the existing substation they built on the West side of the Trans-Canada Highway.
“We have an infrastructure already built and we can make excellent use of that infrastructure to ensure a low cost to the residents of Nova Scotia,” said Bartlett.
Sprott also trumpeted the fact that the first phase was constructed on time and on budget at a cost of $61 million.
They acquired the project a little over a year ago and the last of the 15 turbines came on line mid-April.
“We’re delighted at the success of our existing project,” said Bartlett. “It says a lot about Cumberland County and their efforts to attract business to the community.”