NOVEMBER 2, 2023 UPDATE:
About The Project
This project is located in Mi’kmaki, the ancestral territory of the Mi’kmaq. Natural Forces acknowledges that working on these lands is a privilege that comes with a great deal of responsibility. We believe that private companies have an important role to play in the decolonization of the energy sector and, ultimately, the path towards reconciliation through partnerships and meaningful engagement. To honour and achieve this, we must look forward for generations and integrate the practices and knowledge of the original land stewards, the Mi’kmaq, into project planning.
The proposed Benjamins Mill Wind Project is being developed by a partnership formed between Natural Forces and Wskijnu’k Mtmo’taqnuow Agency Ltd (the Agency), a corporate body wholly owned by the 13 Mi’kmaw bands in Nova Scotia. Together, the partnership will develop, construct, operate, and own the project. The project is located in the West Hants Regional Municipality in Hants County, 14 km southwest of Windsor.
The project is proposed to be built in several phases. As such, the project could have an approximate total capacity of up to approximately 150 MW, representing up to 28 turbines that could collectively power up to 58,000 Nova Scotian homes.
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Phase 1: The proposed Phase 1 of the Benjamins Mill Wind Project consists of up to 8 wind turbines, representing approximately 34 MW of installed capacity. The project is required to obtain all environmental and municipal permits, and will continue stakeholder and Rightsholder consultation prior to beginning construction. Based on current project timelines, it is anticipated that development of the project will continue through the winter of 2023, with construction slated to begin later in 2023. A power purchase contract was secured for this Phase 1 of the project through the Rate Base Procurement program in 2022.
Future Phases: Future phases of the Benjamins Mill Wind Project will be proposed as part of new procurement programs for wind energy projects in Nova Scotia. The project partners intend to bid Phase 2 of the project into the upcoming provincial Green Choice Program Request for Proposals to secure a power purchase contract. This type of contract is necessary for additional project phases to be built. The most up-to-date information on the program can be found on their website, here.
Proposed Project Layout: Phase 1 + Future Phases
Below is a map of the proposed Benjamins Mill Wind Project layout, showing both Phase 1 and potential future phases. This includes the road and turbine layout included in the Environmental Impact Assessment alongside 1 km setback buffers from all nearby residences.
Provincial Green Choice Program Request for Proposals Update
Natural Forces intends to bid the proposed Phase 2 of the Benjamins Mill Wind Project into the provincial Green Choice Program Request for Proposals. More information can be found here.
- September 2020 – Wind data collection began on site
- February 2021 – Private site lands secured under contract
- March 2021 – Environmental studies began
- July 2021 – First public open house at the South West Hants Fire Hall
- August 2021 – Work with West Hants Regional Municipality staff on the Development Agreement application began
- January 2022 – Environmental Assessment (EA) submitted to the Nova Scotia Department of Environment and Climate Change
- February 2022 – Second public open house hosted online
- May 2022 – Phase 1 was bid into the Nova Scotia Rate Base Procurement Request for Proposals (RBP RFP)
- August 2022 – Power purchase contract awarded to Phase 1 of the Benjamins Mill Wind Project through the RBP RFP
- January 2023 – Addendum to the EA was submitted to the Nova Scotia Department of Environment and Climate Change
- February 2023– EA approval received from the Minister of the Nova Scotia Department of Environment and Climate Change
- March 2023 – Site preparation begins with tree clearing
- July 2023 – Site preparation continues with upgrades to the existing forestry roads on private land
- August 2023 – Public hearing and successful second reading of the Development Agreement at the West Hants Council meeting
- November 2023 – As planned, site preparation activities for Phase 1 have paused for the winter months
- November 2023 – Notice sent to community members of Natural Forces’ intention to bid Phase 2 of the project into the Green Choice Program
- March 2024 – Construction to begin for Phase 1
Construction Schedule: Phase 1
Below is a detailed construction schedules, from now until project commissioning. This schedule is based on the best-case scenario, and shows the earliest possible dates for each of these activities. Please keep in mind when considering this schedule that these activities will likely take longer than anticipated due to delays from variables including weather, shipping delays, etc.
Site preparation: tree clearing and grubbing
Site preparation: private access road upgrades
Crane pad construction
Substation civil works
Turbine foundation construction
Electrical infrastructure installation begins
Substation electrical works
Turbine component arrival and installation
Who is proposing this project?
Wskijnu’k Mtmo’taqnuow Agency Limited (The Agency)
The Agency is a corporate entity created by the 13 Mi’kmaw bands in Nova Scotia, which was created to develop partnerships with industry leaders.
Recognizing the need to build capacity and work with experts to participate in opportunities happening in Mi’kmaki, the 13 bands created the Agency to pursue and manage business opportunities for the Mi’kmaq Nation.
The Agency is overseen by a five member board, that is currently comprised of three Chief nominated members’ board seats and two seats filled by community members. The board’s responsibilities include meeting with companies to evaluate potential partnership opportunities and managing these ongoing relationships. In addition to the Board, the Agency has shareholder seats that are filled by the Chiefs of the 13 bands.
Natural Forces is an independent power producer that develops, owns, and operates renewable energy projects. Natural Forces was established in 2001 and has its head office in Halifax, NS, as well as regional offices in Chetwynd, British Columbia; Quispamsis, New Brunswick; Dublin, Ireland; and New York State. Collectively, Natural Forces has close to 300 MW of renewable energy projects in operation across Canada, with several ongoing projects at various stages of completion in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Labrador, Saskatchewan, British Columbia, Ireland, and New York.
The senior management team at Natural Forces has over 70 years of combined renewable energy experience encompassing all project life cycle activities in a range of international locations including Canada, Ireland, Poland, the UK, and Australia. Natural Forces is an integrated developer and operator of renewable energy assets. The in-house team undertakes all activities from initial site selection, development, financing, construction, operations, and asset management. Our vision is to develop, construct, operate, and own clean renewable energy projects across Canada in partnership with local and Indigenous communities.
When developing a wind project, it is crucial to find the most suitable location and community to host it. To do so, there are four main factors to consider during the site-finding phase of development:
- Wind resource
- Distance to existing electrical and civil infrastructure
- Environmental sensitivity
- Socio-economic concerns
Nova Scotia has excellent wind resources, so generating electricity is feasible in many locations around the province. Factors other than the strength and consistency of the wind must be taken into account when considering a site, such as proximity to the electricity grid, road access, ecology, archaeology, and cultural significance, proximity to residential dwellings, and health concerns.
The location of the proposed Benjamins Mill Wind Project was selected after a thorough review of all of these factors.
Natural Forces is committed to engaging with all stakeholders and stakeholder groups throughout the lifetime of the project. We are both keen to ensure the community understands the project details and is aware of project activities, and to accept input and feedback from community members. Below is information about the major public and stakeholder engagement activities that have taken place to date, including summaries of the information that has been shared at our open houses.
The development of wind energy in Nova Scotia provides a clean and stable source of energy that displaces energy generated from fossil fuels. Wind energy development positively impacts the community in a variety of ways, including:
- Providing tax revenue to the hosting municipality for the entire lifetime of the project;
- Creation of local employment and contracting opportunities during all phases of the project;
- Stabilizing energy costs for Nova Scotia Power customers by increasing electricity generation sources with fixed cost contracts; and,
- Increased revenue to local businesses due to economic spinoff from project activities.
Natural Forces has held two open houses to provide opportunities for the community to engage with Natural Forces staff. The first open house was held in person, while the second was held online due to COVID-19 restrictions. All of the information that was presented at each of these open houses is linked below:
Natural Forces will continue to host open houses throughout the development of the project.
Based on feedback received and requests made at our open houses, we have prepared the following materials:
What is the process?
- Assess the wind resource
- Survey for environmentally sensitive features
- Optimize turbine location to capture the wind efficiently and minimize impact on sensitive features
- Begin consultation with regulators and the public
- Conduct and present the Environmental Impact Assessment for environmental approval
- Apply for road, work and construction permits
- Clear trees for roads and turbine pads
- Build access roads and pad areas
- Pour the turbine foundation
- Assemble the wind turbine
- Connect to the electrical grid
- Commission the wind turbines to start producing power
- Conduct post-construction wildlife monitoring
- Monitor remotely for real time alerts when additional maintenance is needed
- Operate for 30 years
Decommission or Retrofit
- Assess wind turbines after 30 years
- Decommission wind turbines in 3-6 months
- Reclaim the site to its former state OR
- Receive approvals and permits to retrofit the turbine to continue harnessing energy
Mi’kmaq Ecological Knowledge Study
The project partners hired the company Membertou Geomatics to complete a Mi’kmaq Ecological Knowledge Study (MEKS) for the Project area. Scoping for the MEKS began in 2021 and the studies were completed in 2022. The final report was prepared and then reviewed by and the final report was reviewed by Kwilmu’kw Maw-klusuaqn (KMKNO) in 2023. By adhering to the Mi’kmaq Ecological Knowledge Study Protocol, 2nd Edition (2014), this study identifies traditional and current Mi’kmaq uses of the land in the vicinity of the Project and incorporates a Mi’kmaq Significant Species Analysis.
The full MEKS can be found below
Environmental Impact Assessment
In Nova Scotia, any wind projects that exceed 2 MW in size are required to complete a provincial environmental impact assessment (EIA). During this process, an entire committee made of provincial and federal agencies evaluates the location and overall impact of the project on the surrounding environment and the public. As the proposed Benjamins Mill Wind Project would produce up to approximately 150 MW of electricity, it is subject to an EIA.
To fully assess the potential environmental impacts of the project, the following comprehensive studies have been conducted:
- Wind Resource Assessment
- Wetlands and Watercourses Surveys
- Bird and Bat Surveys
- Vegetation and Habitat Surveys
- Noise and Visual Assessments
- Radiocommunication Impact Assessments
- Archaeological Assessments
- Geological Surveys
The results from these studies are compiled in the EIA document that was registered with the province on January 18, 2022. As is common with projects of this kind, the Minister of the Department of Environment and Climate Change requested additional information to provide a final decision on the project. As such, the environmental studies at the project site have continued in 2022, the results of which were compiled and reported on in the addendum to the initial registration document. As of February 13, 2023, the Benjamins Mill Wind Project’s environmental assessment has been approved by the Minister of Environment and Climate Change.
More information on the EIA can be found below, or on the provincial EIA website. Both the initial EIA document (2022) and the addendum (2023) can also be viewed below.
- Environmental Assessment Registration Document
- Appendix A – Sample Consultation Materials
- Appendix B – Complaint Resolution Plan
- Appendix C – Sound Level Assessment
- Appendix D – Visual Assessment
- Appendix E – Vegetation and Lichen Surveys
- Appendix F – Wildlife Surveys
- Appendix G – Wetland Surveys
- Appendix H – Bird Surveys
- Benjamins Mill Environmental Studies Summary
- Appendix I – Radar and Acoustic Monitoring Surveys
- Appendix J – Bat Surveys
- Appendix K – Fish Habitat Surveys
- Appendix L – Atlantic Canadian Conservation Data Centre Report
- Appendix M – Radiocommunication System Impact Study
- Appendix O – Environmental Management and Protection Plan
- Appendix P – Qualifications of Lead Technical Field Professionals
- Addendum to the Environmental Assessment Registration Document
- Appendix A – Regulator Comments and Correspondence
- Appendix B – Vegetation Survey
- Appendix C – Wildlife Survey
- Appendix D – Wetlands Survey
- Appendix E – Watercourse and Fish Habitat Survey
- Appendix F – Birds and Bird Habitat Survey
- Appendix G – Radar and Acoustic Monitoring Survey Report
- Appendix H – Bats and Bat Habitat Survey
- Appendix I – 2021 Atlantic Canadian Conservation Data CentreReport
- Appendix J – 2022 Atlantic Canadian Conservation Data Centre Report
- Appendix K – Uranium Report (Dillon)
- Appendix L – Uranium Report (Mercator)
- Appendix M – Sound Level Assessment
- Appendix N – Archaeological Resource Impact Assessment
- Appendix O – Environmental Management and Protection Plan
- Appendix P – Complaint Resolution Plan
- Appendix Q – Adaptive Management Plan
- Appendix R – Surface Water Management Plan
Questions from the Open Houses
In order to finance and build this project, a power contract is required. These two provincial programs are opportunities to obtain a power contract. If we are not selected for the Rate Base Procurement or the Green Choice Program, we will need to wait for other opportunities in the future.
We do not receive comments submitted through the government’s website as a default – however, we are committed to obtaining any questions asked. You can also submit your questions directly to us by using the contact details at the bottom of the page.
We did not, but we have taken note of this and will investigate further
Seeing as this site is previously disturbed by forestry activities, there is an existing network of access roads. We will be trying to use these roads as much as possible, and will perform upgrades to those that we will be using. However, some new roads will need to be constructed to access the turbine locations. The final road layout will be made available as soon as the project layout is finalized.
Yes – we are committed to providing additional visualizations of what the project is expected to look like from Falls Lake and other landmarks near the project site, as well as a map showing how much of the project area will be cleared.
A third-party noise validation assessment is being performed by Aercoustics.
The layout is not finalized at the moment, and a lot can change between now and construction. All comments on the layout will be taken into consideration when finalizing the design.
We are doing out due diligence to ensure that this project is developed and sited responsibly. This includes meeting and exceeding the industry setbacks. We have also conducted sound and visual studies that will be validated by a third party. These studies show that, given the worst-case scenario (i.e., climatic conditions, wind in all directions, no obstacles blocking sound and light, etc.), very minimal sound and shadow-flicker is expected to reach the nearest homes.
We are actively seeking to build relationships with community members and will continue to do so.
Frequently Asked Questions
Natural Forces undertakes rigorous environmental impact assessments ahead of construction to determine existing environmental sensitivities and potential impacts on the project to the environment. This information will be reviewed by provincial government officials and will be open for public comment.
The proposed turbines will be set back at least 1.0 km from all cabins and houses.
For this project, Natural Forces leased land from private landowners and has made agreements with the provincial government for Crown land. Over the course of several years, we have developed trusted relationships with the landowners and in all instances the land remains in the ownership of the landowner and is leased for the duration of the project. No land has been leased from unwilling landowners.
During construction, Natural Forces makes every attempt to hire local contractors, using our in-house construction management company, Natural Forces Construction, to ensure smaller contractors are able to participate.
Wind turbines have moving parts and therefore some sound can be expected. However, well-designed wind turbines are generally quiet in operation, and compared to the noise of road traffic, trains, aircraft, and construction activities, the sound from wind turbines is very low. As wind turbine technology has evolved, the sounds emitted have decreased. The further away you are from a project, the less sound it will make. This site will likely have trees and other barriers that would break a lot of the sound before it reaches homes. A typical wind project would have a noise level of between 35-45 decibels. For reference, the compressor of a refrigerator produces 40-45 decibels. (Check out the Energy Nova Scotia Wind Page for more information). Stories of excessive noise often come from areas where the turbines are very close to homes. Natural Forces follows the minimum standards for distance from residences laid out by local regulations, or a typical minimum of 1KM.
For more information contact:
Meg Morris, Project Manager