EverWind plans spark local concerns

Mere weeks after EverWind Fuels promised to provide “meaningful engagement” across Guysborough County – where the company plans to erect hundreds of wind turbines generating thousands of megawatts of power over the next four years – some local citizens remain confused, frustrated and anxious about the future of their communities.

In interviews with The Journal, residents – who either attended or followed reports on the company’s open houses in Boylston, Lincolnville, Guysborough, St. Francis Harbour, Erinville, Larry’s River, New Harbour, Goldboro, Sherbrooke, Country Harbour and Port Bickerton, between May 28 and June 11 – expressed concerns about everything from non-recyclable turbine blades ending up in landfills to the prospect of vast tracts of pristine wilderness being turned into a “wind farm wasteland.”

They also questioned the main objective of the three farms spread across 64,000 hectares in the Municipality of the District of Guysborough (MODG) and the Municipality of the District of St. Mary’s, scheduled to become operational in 2027-28 – to supply approximately two gigawatts of renewable energy to EverWind’s Point Tupper plant to fuel its $6 billion initiative producing green hydrogen for export to European markets. Instead, they argued, the goal should be to “green” Nova Scotia’s energy grid with smaller scale wind projects.

Tori Evans, a retired Canadian government employee, who moved to Chedabucto Bay’s north shore in 2017 “because the beauty here is incredible,” attended the open houses in St. Francis Harbour and Sherbrooke.

She said, “There is a huge difference between a small wind farm that directly supports the Nova Scotia grid and massive wind farms used to export ammonia overseas... I recently heard a comment in the media that the [provincial] government is [already] confident it will meet its 2030 climate goals – so EverWind will not impact Nova Scotia’s goal of greening the grid.”

Becoming a “sacrifice shore”?

She worried that the company’s international commitments will turn the Eastern Shore into a “sacrifice shore” and that it is not being upfront with people about the actual impact of its plans on quality of life, the environment and even tourism.

“In May 2023, EverWind proposed a 2,000 MW wind farm, mainly in Guysborough County, at four open house locations,” she said. “Depending on turbine size and MW produced, it would be a minimum 300 turbines, but likely around 339 turbines. Flash forward to one year later [and] surprise: The turbine count in Guysborough County has now ballooned to 404 [and] now spread among three wind farms. [At 5.9 MW per turbine], that adds up to 2,384 MW, not 2,000 MW as originally planned. Simply put, this is a 19 per cent increase and equals 65 more wind turbines.”

She added: “What has not been widely reported is the ‘cost’ for Guysborough County... clearing massive amounts of crown lands for wind turbines and roads. [But] forests help to mitigate some climate change effects such as flooding. [And] let’s not forget about the blades that are non-recyclable and end up in landfills called ‘wind farm graveyards.’... What about tourism? We have the beautiful Marine Drive Trail, which will now be littered with wind turbines... At what point does a wind farm become a wind farm wasteland?”

The largest “turbine collection” in Canada

Jack Leonard, a retired school principal from the United States, who moved to Guysborough and helped establish the ArtWorks East collective in 2019, was similarly alarmed. He said he did not attend the open houses “partly because I suspected that [we] would just get a song and dance [from Everwind].” Still, he noted, “I was shocked that they are thinking of turning 16 per cent of the land, which is Crown land, [over] to... 400 turbines. That would be the largest turbine collection in all of Canada... seems to be... in all of the Western Hemisphere. I mean, that’s huge. And that’s not just a turbine here and there. They have to get access roads built to get to all of these turbines to maintain them.”

He added: “I have nothing against wind power. I wish Nova Scotia had more turbines. I wish it got off coal... But, these turbines are going to do nothing for that, fueling electrolysis of water to make hydrogen for export... What we’re doing here is, once again, allowing a big company to use Guysborough County for their own personal benefit because... you know... we’re here and we’re poor and we’re scattered and we’re desperate for jobs... It really angers me... I’m just not sure that people are aware of what’s happening out there.”

“Meaningful engagement” is important

Keeping people apprised of its plans was, of course, EverWind’s avowed purpose when it announced the series of open houses in May with an invitation to the public to “learn more about the proposed renewable energy initiatives, environmental considerations and benefits for communities... Meaningful engagement with local communities is important to us and these open houses [will provide] a platform where community members can learn about our projects, ask questions and express any concerns, especially in the early stages of the development process.”

In an interview with The Journal last week, EverWind Engagement Manager Mark Stewart acknowledged that while “there is a growing concern that we have noted throughout these open houses, as well as other ones, with the concept of this energy being produced for export... the greening of the [Nova Scotia] grid is happening concurrently with this export-based green fuels initiative. There’s kind of a symbiotic relationship between the two of them. The hydrogen facilities will assist in grid balancing.”

Misconceptions remain

For example, he said, EverWind has purchased the 49 per cent stake in two wind farms formerly owned by Nova Scotia Power – one at the intersection of West Hants, Chester and HRM; and the other in Colchester County – to feed Nova Scotia’s grid. Moreover, he added: “The plan or the intent right now, based on market demand, is to [develop] an export-based product. But, that’s not to say there won’t be domestic demand that grows over time, or industries here in Nova Scotia that can utilize both green hydrogen and green ammonia.”

As for the scale of the planned industrial activity in Guysborough, he admitted that misconceptions remain despite the open houses.

“We indicated in the information that we shared that the number of turbines on any given site were ‘up to’ – so, not in excess of that. At wind farm 1, located north of St. Francis Harbour and to the east of Boylston – the only one of the three where we’ve done a significant amount of groundwork – we’re saying up to 84 turbines. If anything, it’ll be less.”

What’s more, he said, “We hear the comment, ‘save our forests from the wind farm.’ But, in fact, the actual wind infrastructure takes up very little of the land mass. So, if you look at the broad boundaries of the sites in Guysborough [County], the operational footprint – and again, we haven’t done the detail work, so I don’t want to say exactly – is going to be sub-three per cent of [the] land mass. That includes roads, transmission lines, collector circuits and turbines.”

Need to do a better job educating

For all of this, he conceded, “We need to do a better job at educating the public, and communicating the benefits to Nova Scotians and the Nova Scotia grid... That’s on us.”

Meanwhile, MODG officials remain broadly committed to EverWind’s plans. Citing a recently signed community benefits agreement with the municipality, they expect the company to pay $1,000 per megawatt annually in addition to yearly commercial tax revenue of approximately #14.3 million (St. Mary’s is expected to receive $3.23 million in annual taxes).

“The wind world is coming at us and I don’t think there’s any doubt about that,” MODG District 1 Councillor Paul Long told The Journal last week. “The province is certainly on board for it. Is everything always perfect? Probably not. But, one thing we’ve been trying to do as councillors is making sure that EverWind gets the information out there – the more the better. There are people from every side of every argument who have their biases, and it’s pretty hard to change those minds.”

Keeping an open and critical mind

One who says he’s keeping his mind open is Scott Beaver, president of the St Mary’s River Association, who received this year’s Lieutenant-Governor’s Award for Conservation. He attended the EverWind open house in Sherbrooke.

“Obviously, people don’t want this in their back yard. I don’t want to see it in my back yard,” he told The Journal in an email.

“Still, we do need to grow and make some positive changes. I want to know: Is this going to help? Is this a good choice for all of us? Will this benefit our communities? We are keeping an open mind, but also a critical mind.”

Alec Bruce, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal