102 megawatt wind energy project proposed for Nova Scotia — could be largest in the province

In a move that will significantly expand Nova Scotia’s renewable energy production, Natural Forces, a Halifax-born company, has submitted plans to the province’s Department of Environment to build up to 28 new wind turbines. Dubbed the Benjamins Mills project, the installation will be located roughly 13 kilometres southwest of Windsor and is expected to generate up to 150 megawatts — enough to power 50,000 homes.

While the site of wind turbines is nothing new to east coasters, industrial-scale projects are still relatively rare. The largest standing wind farm in Nova Scotia is the South Canoe Project in Lunenburg County, which features 34 turbines with a generating capacity of 102 megawatts. While the Benjamins Mills project will feature fewer turbines, each will be as high as 60 storeys (200 metres) from the ground to the blade tip. Subsequently, the project will generate vastly more energy.

The site location will primarily be on leased private land, although up to four turbines could be placed on nearby Crown land. Both areas were previously clear-cut by industry, meaning the project won’t cause additional ecological degradation. The chosen spot is also elevated, which will allow the turbines to capture higher wind speeds, and has pre-built roads and nearby transmission lines — a result of earlier logging activities.

Construction is slated to begin by the end of 2022, with Natural Forces aiming to have operations up and running by 2024. These plans, however, remain dependent on the company receiving development permits from the West Hants Regional Municipality and environmental approval from Nova Scotia’s provincial government. But there is no sign that these approvals will pose a challenge.

Mayor Abraham Zebian of West Hants said he was “not aware of any opposition to the project” and that the company behind it “[had] already been consulting with the community.” Progressive Conservative Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, Tim Halman, has until February 17 to make a decision about the project. Though, as his government has committed to achieving 80% renewable energy by 2030, and wind has become a clear favourite, there is little doubt this uncontroversial project will be approved.

Although nothing has been finalized yet, Natural Forces plans to sell its produced energy through a power purchase agreement, which it hopes to secure during one of Nova Scotia’s upcoming renewable energy bidding processes.

The Benjamins Mills project also highlights the role that renewable energy can play in empowering economically disadvantaged communities. The Wskijnu’k Mtmo’taqnuow Agency — a jointly operated company by the 13 Mi’kmaw bands in Nova Scotia — owns a majority share in the project, though the specific partnership breakdown is confidential.

With Nova Scotia now home to more than 300 commercial turbines, wind energy has surpassed natural gas, hydroelectric, and petroleum power to become the province’s second-greatest source of electricity. While this is undoubtedly good news, coal still represents — by quite a substantial margin — the largest source of power and greenhouse gas emissions in Nova Scotia.