Here’s a bit of background on Chaleur Ventus: We are currently developing a $40 million, 20 MW, wind farm named Chaleur Ventus. The Chaleur Ventus Wind Farm will be in the northern part of New Brunswick, in Anse-Bleue. Our project is part of NB Power’s Locally Owned Renewable Energy Projects that are Small-Scale (LORESS) program. We are the only New Brunswick developer to win a project, so we are passionate about the care taken in creating our scientific studies. A large part of developing a wind farm is the visual impact, which is when you look up into the sky to view a turbine.
A person looks up in the sky to see a turbine. You don't look down on a community from the height of a turbine. There's factors like elevation, trees, and weather that come into play for visual impact.
Aside from the other LORESS projects, the last wind farm to be developed in New Brunswick was in 2011 on Lamèque Island. The wind farm is 45 MW consisting of 30 turbines. Turbine technology is always evolving, and this is true for our Chaleur Ventus project. Chaleur Ventus consists of only five turbines, at 179.5 m total wind energy converter (WEC) height. These turbines are taller than others constructed in the province due to the technological advances in the industry. Taller turbines can harness the increased wind speeds that naturally occur at greater heights. Larger turbines can also capture wind energy more efficiently. This allows for fewer turbines needed, and less environmental impact. It also means a more in-depth visual impact assessment, so here are five things you should know about this project.
Taller turbines can harness the increased wind speeds that naturally occur at greater heights. Larger turbines can also capture wind energy more efficiently. This allows for fewer turbines needed, and less environmental impact.
1. Environmental Impact Assessment
An Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is a process to evaluate any possible impacts of a proposed project that will affect the land environmentally, socially, and economically. EIAs are used to develop plans for land use, and to propose measures to mitigate any negative impacts. Our EIA for Chaleur Ventus includes a visual impact assessment, as well as the following:
- Noise Impact Assessment
- Shadow Flicker Assessment
- Electromagnetic Interference Study
- Avian Survey Report
- Bat Survey Report
- Aquatic Resource
- Wildlife Report
- Vegetation and Habitat Report
- Archaeological Resource Assessment
Here are the images for our Visual Impact Assessment that was completed by WSP, a third-party professional services firm. These before and after renderings show where and how much of the turbines will be visible. There are a few photos that we will go into more detail in point #3.
Click on each image to open full-size
2. New Brunswick Regulations
As mentioned, visual impact is a big part of a wind farm’s EIA. It is also related to what’s called a setback distance. A setback for a wind turbine is the length allowed between two defined points, in this case being the turbine and residences. In New Brunswick the recommended residential setback for a wind farm is 500m. The closest Chaleur Ventus receptor is approximately 550m (on land owned by a project participant,) and the closest non-participatory receptor is ~650+ m away.
3. Village Historique Acadien
You may have noticed in some of the Visual Impact Assessment photos that the before and after pictures look the same. This is because our team, and WSP, took great care in making sure that the turbines would be out of sight to the Village Historique Acadien. There have been contradicting photos taken by an aerial videography company that shows the view from the height of a turbine looking down, suggesting that the historic village would be in view of the turbines as shown below. These images were obtained by an article in Acadie Nouvelle.
These images are not in line with the scientific methods used for analysis. A Visual Impact Assessment is done by professionals with years of experience. A person looks up in the sky to see a wind turbine. You don't look down on a community from the height of a turbine. It’s not a case of looking into a mirror for example where you can see them, and they can see you. Many factors come into play when determining the visual impact of a wind turbine including trees and other objects that block our view to the sky. These photos do not follow scientific principles and are inaccurate in concluding that turbines will be visible from the key areas in the village.
Many factors come into play when determining the visual impact of a wind turbine including trees and other objects that block our view to the sky.
4. Third-Party Professionals
The Chaleur Ventus EIA studies were completed by WSP, as mentioned above. They have offices located across five continents with their headquarters located in Montreal, Quebec. WSP has over 25 years’ experience and has provided professional service to both offshore and onshore wind farms. They have a long track record supporting wind developers, utility companies, funders, and investors throughout the project life cycle. Did you know that WSP also has a local office located right here in Fredericton?
As engineers, they all have professional standards to follow. Their standards ensure that their work is accurate, true, while having a regard for the safety of life, health and welfare of the public and employees who may be affected for the work which they are responsible.
"Engineers endeavour to extend public knowledge of engineering and geoscience and discourage the spreading of untrue, unfair and exaggerated statements regarding engineering and geoscience." @APEGNB_AIGNB
5. Visual Impact Methods
A Visual Impact Assessment can’t be done overnight, or by use of a drone. It is completed by qualified experts who use visibility tools to identify which observable points are visible from each raster surface location.
Inputs into the model include a grid of ground elevations of the area around the turbines, the height of the objects being observed, and the height of the observer. An elevation grid was obtained from Natural Resources Canada.
Visual Impact Assessment
Calculations were completed by using a maximum object height of 116m (nacelle height) and a maximum distance of 48 km. Beyond 48 km it was assumed that no portion of the turbine would be visible to the unaided eye by a casual observer without extended viewing. Another analysis was completed for a 179.5 m total WEC height with a calculation distance of 5 km. A 5 km calculation was selected based on the 48 km visibility radius of a turbine nacelle estimated to be 10 km long.
The visibility analysis results in what can be considered a "worst-case" viewshed area several factors were not accounted for that would limit the visibility of turbines. These factors include:
- Obstructions such as trees and buildings will have an impact on visibility. The use of the visibility analysis is limited in New Brunswick due to heavy tree cover. It is not possible to account for heavy tree cover analytically.
- Atmospheric, weather, and lighting conditions such as clouds, low contrast lighting, and haze.
- The amount of the turbine that is visible. Only part of a blade tip may be visible at some locations. It is not expected for blades to be visible over the entire 48 km calculation distance.
- The relative size of the turbine at the viewing distance. It will take a viewer longer to identify a wind turbine as the relative subtended visual angle nears the minimum angle of resolution is approached.
"The visibility analysis results in what can be considered a "worst-case" viewshed area several factors were not accounted for that would limit the visibility of turbines." - WSP
We are confident in the results created by professional third-party firms, and have spent extra hours and funds to mitigate potential concerns. As the only local utility-scale renewable energy developer in the province, we care about what is being built in the place we call home.
Aerial photos by: FJ Productions (we know who we should reach out to when we need video for our future community projects in northern NB!)
If you’re still curious to read more details about our Chaleur Ventus Visual Impact Assessment, and other studies, you can do so by clicking the button.
About the Author
Sarah Arsenault has a Bachelor of Arts degree with a double major in Communications and Journalism. She has five years in the Communications field, with a focus in Marketing. She’s responsible for getting blogs like this one onto your screen for you to read, and to engage the community about clean energy through the use of promotional material, website, and social media.
Sarah has considerable experience in event planning and community engagement during her time at an established regional non-profit organization. She was involved in the creation, implementation, and completion of a $2.2 million fundraising campaign, which was the largest campaign in the non-profit’s 35-year history.