By Laurent d’Entremont
On West Pubnico Point, a mile from my home, in Yarmouth County, we have a well-oiled 17-unit wind turbine farm. According to NextEra Energy Resources, it acquired the wind farm in 2008 from Atlantic Wind Power Corporation Ltd. The farm began commercial operation in 2005. It is a 30.6-megawatt wind energy generation plant; the 17 Vestas V-80 turbines are capable of generating electricity to power more than 9,000 homes. Each turbine is about 78 metres tall from the ground to the center of the hub for the blades.
The benefits are the wind farm employs a staff of five local residents. They pay more than $590,000 annually in payments and contributions to the local community and municipality. The wind turbines create no air or water pollution, do not use water in the generation of electricity and it allows the land to remain in agricultural use. The turbines are not an eyesore at all, they are well painted, sort of an off white, and when the early morning sun hits them it is a real pretty picture.
The energy from these turbines travel on submarine cables under the floor of Pubnico harbour to a substation located in Lower East Pubnico. There are about six miles, or so, of access roads connecting to the Pubnico Point main road and this is where most of us do our daily walking. A very pleasant walk, the revolving blades create a gentle swish which is not disturbing at all most of the time, somewhat the same noise as water lapping our shores. The only time that we should avoid these roads is when there is ice on the revolving blades, or when work is being conducted on the units by the maintenance crew.
Walking these roads is almost like belonging to a club, you see the same people over and over again. In summertime I see young mothers with their baby carriages enjoying the sunny carefree days, often they stop and talk with me, many times people I don’t really know, who recognize me for one reason or another. There are several schoolteachers who take their daily walk in late afternoon as a way of unwinding after class. Tourists come from all over to visit the windmill farm. I talk with many from the Annapolis Valley every summer. During migration, we see flocks of birders with their binoculars doing what birders do; there is no shortage of sea or land birds. A three-year study, made by a professional birder, proved that the wind blades of the turbines had only killed two small birds each during that period.
Wildlife is plentiful at times too. I have seen deer on a number of times, a few foxes, countless porcupines and snowshoe rabbits. Some porcupines were so small that the quills were still soft, yet I prefer not to fool around with these walking pincushions. Plus a few coyote sightings were reported by other walkers. Reptiles abound too, harmless garter snakes, green bullfrogs, big tadpoles, spotted salamanders, and so it goes, the ideal walk for nature lovers in summer. Every June during the Tern Festival, an event sponsored by the Acadian Museum, we do the Birders Loop with birders from all over the province. A birder I am not, still I love rubbing shoulders with these dedicated and interesting people, and learn a whole lot from them.
At first a few people opposed the wind turbines, one family went as far as selling their home and moving out. The irony here is that the cousin of the homeowner bought the house and moved in with his wife and two young sons. About three years ago a newly married couple built their new home right across from the first wind turbine, no more than several hundred yards away. This past winter two driveways have been constructed right across from the centre of the wind farm and houses will be going up only a few hundred feet from the nearest turbine.
One gets the impression that our residents have accepted the wind farm … and in the meantime those gigantic wind blades just keep on turning at 17 revolutions per minute.