This evening, EverWind Fuels will appear before the Council of the Municipality of Colchester County to present its plans for large new wind projects in the county.
It’s not the company’s first attempt to get the Colchester mayor and councillors on board.
Just five weeks ago, two men appeared before the council to present plans for the 16-turbine, 98-megawatt Kmtnuk wind project that EverWind and Membertou First Nation’s Wind Strength company are proposing for Colchester County.
Neither EverWind nor Wind Strength showed up to help out with the October 3 presentation to council, sending Oscar Urbina who was then with Renewable Energy Systems, and Angus Doane of Strum Consulting, in their stead.
To say that Urbina and Doane met strong headwinds from the members of the Council of the Municipality of Colchester would be, well, a gentle way of putting it.
Neither seemed positioned to answer the myriad questions from Mayor Christine Blair and the councillors, some of whom were visibly frustrated and fuming because of the lack of answers, as the Halifax Examiner reported here.
A second chance for EverWind
However, this evening EverWind is being granted a second chance to plead its cause before the Colchester Municipal Council.
On November 9, Chief Administrative Office Dan Troke announced that there would be a “special council committee presentation meeting” on November 14, for “a proponent relating wind turbine development projects.”
That proponent, of course, is EverWind.
Since the last EverWind appearance in front of the Colchester Council, the company registered its Kmtnuk project for environmental assessment with Nova Scotia Environment and Climate Change. It did the same for another large wind project — the 15-turbine, 89-megwatt Bear Lake wind project at the intersection of West Hants, Chester, and Halifax municipalities.
At this evening’s council meeting, EverWind will be unveiling plans for yet another wind project in Colchester County, called Windy Ridge.
Windy Ridge will be far, far larger than either Bear Lake or Kmtnuk.
The massive 58-turbine, 340-megawatt Windy Ridge wind project would stretch from Folly Mountain in the west, north almost to Highway 246 that links New Annan with Wentworth, and then on its eastern side it would abut the Kmtnuk project near McCallum Settlement just to the west of Highway 311.
For comparison, Nova Scotia’s largest existing wind farm, the 102-megwatt South Canoe facility in Lunenburg County, has only 34 turbines.
The turbines EverWind intends to use at its Kmtnuk and Windy Ridge sites will be up to 125 metres tall, with blades over 81 metres long. To put that in perspective, the height of the Angus L. Macdonald Bridge is only 103 metres. The distance between the water of Halifax Harbour and the bridge deck at centre span is just 47 metres.
An EverWind flyer that landed in mailboxes throughout Colchester County states that the wind farms will be “low density,” with approximately one turbine every 436 acres. EverWind’s two wind facilities proposed for the county will have a total of 74 turbines, which means the projects will spread across 32,264 acres in the county, some on Crown land.
However, much of Windy Ridge will be on land EverWind is leasing from Northern Pulp. The land is part of the 475,000 acres that Northern Pulp purchased from Neenah Paper in 2010 with a $75 million loan from the government of Nova Scotia.
Since June 2020, when Northern Pulp sought creditor protection in the British Columbia Supreme Court, the company — owned by Paper Excellence that is now Canada’s largest pulp and paper producer — has not been making payments on that loan. Court documents show Northern Pulp still owes the province nearly $65 million of that $75 million loan.
At the EverWind open house for its Kmtnuk and Windy Ridge projects held in North River on November 10, the Halifax Examiner asked EverWind representatives how much the company was paying Northern Pulp to lease the land.
EverWind director of corporate development Daniel Lee replied, “We cannot comment on private agreements with private landowners.”
Asked how much land they were leasing from Northern Pulp, Lee said he would get back to us on that.
We are still waiting.
Disappearing the “hydrogen side” of the EverWind project
At the October council meeting, Councillor Marie Benoit asked Oscar Urbina, who was presenting the Kmtnuk project on behalf of EverWind and Wind Strength, why the energy from a wind farm in Colchester County would be used to produce green hydrogen in Point Tupper, in Cape Breton, which in turn would produce ammonia for export to Europe.
Urbina replied that he would “probably” be able to get someone from the “hydrogen side” of the project to answer that question.
Since that meeting, EverWind seems to have been carefully tailoring and sweetening its messaging to sell its wind projects to the public and politicians in Nova Scotia.
That means hyping local benefits, and conspicuously downplaying the actual raison d’étre of the wind farms, which — in case anyone forgot — is actually not to provide Nova Scotians with domestic green energy for greening the grid and helping the province wean itself off coal so it can meet its climate goals.
Rather, according to the first page of the environmental assessment document EverWind submitted to Nova Scotia Environment and Climate Change for the hydrogen and ammonia plants it intends to build in Point Tupper, “The purpose of the Project is to produce Certified Green hydrogen and ammonia to support the global demand for agricultural fertilizer products while reducing the carbon footprint of conventional ammonia production methods.”
EverWind says it plans to convert nearly all the “green hydrogen” it produces in Point Tupper into “green ammonia” for shipping to Germany, where it can be used in “agriculture, refrigeration, water purification, and the production of chemicals.”
For the hydrogen and ammonia to qualify as green, the company needs to produce them using 100% renewable energy. And that means an enormous amount of wind energy. Hence the need for the Bear Lake, Kmtnuk and Windy Ridge wind farms, and another even larger one — with more than 300 turbines — slated for Guysborough County.
But you won’t find that even mentioned in the PR materials EverWind has been pumping out since its sorry performance before the Colchester Municipal Council last month.
EverWind pulls out all the PR stops
There is no mention of ammonia for export in the glossy flyer that landed in mailboxes in Colchester County. The flyer is full of even glossier promises to citizens, and promises of riches that would flow to government coffers and communities and homeowners near the wind farms.
Nor is hydrogen or ammonia for export mentioned in EverWind’s ads that have been appearing at the very top of my social media feeds for the past couple of weeks.
Those ads extol the purported local benefits of the wind projects, almost as if the company were a charitable organization set up only to benefit Colchester County, and not a private, for-profit venture founded and run by New York-based former private equity luminary, Trent Vichie.
EverWind’s social media ads boast that the wind projects mean:
- Millions in direct payments to local homeowners
- Millions in ‘community vibrancy’ funding
- Local jobs with bursaries for education
Although a note at the bottom of the Instagram ad suggested there were four comments, when I clicked to see them, there were none, and I was invited to start the conversation. I then made my own comment, asking if and why comments were being deleted. That comment was deleted. I repeated the exercise three times. The comments all disappeared, as if EverWind didn’t want to hear what anyone had to say.
Last week, EverWind also held three open houses for the wind projects — in Debert, Truro and North River — as well as a “business info session” at the Best Western in Truro.
Crucial Council meeting later this week
As for this evening’s presentation to Colchester Municipal Council, it looks as if EverWind is taking no chances this time by sending hired help to speak about its projects as it did in October. Representatives at the North River open house held on November 10 told the Examiner that EverWind founder and CEO Trent Vichie himself will be presenting to the Council.
The presentation comes just two days before a crucial meeting of the Colchester Municipal Council.
On November 16, the council will “consider second reading for amendments to the Wind Turbine Development By-law.”
The notice of intent for the meeting continues:
If approved, the amendments will mean no new development license applications for wind turbines will be received until December 31, 2024, when a county-wide Municipal Planning Strategy and Land Use By-law is completed.”
Should the council approve the amendments on Thursday, EverWind will have to rethink its schedule and plans.
The company plans to start constructing the Kmtnuk wind facility by the summer of 2024 and commission it by December 2025, and Windy Ridge in the fall of 2024, for completion in early 2025 or mid-2026.
‘We’re confident we’ll get the result we’re looking for’
EverWind representatives seem nonplussed by this possibility, convinced their recent efforts to sway opinions have helped dispel concerns about and opposition to the projects.
At Friday’s open house in North River, the Examiner asked what EverWind would do should council decide to pause all wind applications until December 2024.
The reply from Adam Langer, EverWind’s director of public affairs:
After the last few weeks, we’ve had really productive conversations with members of council and with residents, as well as the other two levels of government. What we heard from them was there was a need for some more information and understanding, on Council and in the community. So we’ve spent the past number of weeks focusing on that. And through the course of that process, we’ve been able to provide a lot of answers and contacts for people that I think has shifted opinions. So that has been our focus. And I think with our efforts and after our presentations next week that this won’t be this won’t be a concern. We’re pretty confident in our project and that we’ll get the result that we were looking for.
I can’t speak for everybody’s opinion on the project. There are definitely have been some who had voiced their opposition, and after speaking to us, have a better understanding of the project and we’ve gotten them to be more on side. Again, as with any project, you’re never going to have 100% support. There are always going to be different differing opinions in the community. And it’s our job to listen to those opinions and make sure that we hear those concerns and do our best to mitigate them. And we’re confident that that our efforts will pass in a while. And in the future, we’ll continue to give the community comfort that we’re doing what we should.
Cold comfort for some
Some people in the area are anything but comforted by EverWind’s project presentations and PR on the wind projects.
Jim Langille is a landowner on Johnston Lake, with a view of the Northern Pulp lands where EverWind will be erecting its massive wind turbines. He contacted the Examiner after he attended a meeting at a local recreation club on the evening of Sunday, November 12 where EverWind gave a presentation about its wind projects.
“I was shocked as a landowner to find out for the first time that a massive wind farm is in development in Colchester,” he said.
Until this meeting, Langille had never heard of EverWind or its green hydrogen and ammonia project, something he finds very worrisome.
Langille is certainly not alone in his concerns.
In an email to the Examiner, Gregor Wilson of the citizen group Protect Wentworth Valley, wrote:
The wind energy produced from Everwind is ultimately for export to Europe. It is an incredibly energy inefficient system. Most experts acknowledge the best use of wind energy is to replace local use of coal or other fossil fuels.
The sheer size of the Everwind project areas in the Cobequid Mountains is daunting. Throughout this massive area are hundreds of wetlands. All sequester large amounts of carbon … Everwind also needs to clear huge amounts of carbon-sequestering forests, many of which are old growth or mature forests. Many wetlands and old growth forests of the Everwind projects area are known hotspots for the endangered Nova Scotia mainland moose and many other Species-at-Risk.
Many experts acknowledge the cheapest and easiest way to combat climate change is to protect more land, such as the remarkable forests and wetlands located through Everwind’s project areas. There are several massive Crown land parcels in the project area that would be much better suited for provincial protected areas for carbon sequestration and for essential Species-at-Risk habitat …
After the recent fatal extreme rain events [in Nova Scotia] it is important to recognize the important protection these wetlands and forests offer to the residents downstream in seven major watersheds below.
“’Green’ hydrogen for export is greenwashing,” Wilson added.
This evening’s special Colchester Council Committee meeting at which EverWind will present its Windy Ridge and Kmtnuk wind projects will be held from 5:00 to 6:30pm, both in-person in Council Chambers of the Municipal Building, 1 Church Street, Truro, and virtually via Zoom.