Saturday, June 22, 2024

June 19 2024

EverWind needs to do better in clear, thorough communications with public

The first rule of good communications is clarity. That’s especially true when the subject is complex, as we discover this week in Alec Bruce’s feature on EverWind’s recent attempt to reach out to members of the public about its plans to build three wind farms on 64,000 hectares of Crown land in Guysborough County.

The company’s ambition to use the wind farms to supply its $6-billion green hydrogen project, which aims to produce clean fuel for export markets, has received the stamp of approval from officials at both the Municipality of the District of Guysborough and the Municipality of the District of St. Mary’s – areas that stand to earn millions in additional taxes and benefits over the coming years.

Yet, even after a series of open houses across the county, EverWind has not managed to allay the fears of some residents. They’ve raised concerns about impacts on the natural environment, reducing quality of life and diminishing the appeal of their communities to visitors.

To some extent, this kind of resistance is to be expected. There’s a lot of information out there on the potential perils of industrial-scale turbines of the type proposed by EverWind.

But, it is possible to set the record straight for this project – concisely, simply and thoroughly. Surely that’s the whole point of a public open house – to deal directly with specific, granular issues as they arise.

What do 400-plus wind turbines scattered over an area the size of Guysborough County actually look like on the ground, where people live, work and play? How many roads will have to be built to maintain them? What protections will there be for wetlands and other sensitive natural areas? What about this business of greening Nova Scotia’s grid first before using its steady breezes to make hydrogen for European buyers?

It’s clear that a number of residents who attended the open houses – and likely many more who simply heard about them from their friends and neighbours – weren’t satisfied with the answers. Was there a way to do it differently? As EverWind Engagement Manager Mark Stewart told Bruce, “We need to do a better job at educating the public and communicating the benefits to Nova Scotians and the Nova Scotia grid.”

There’s a lot at stake and much to consider. It’s not unreasonable for citizens to fret about the impact of something like this on their lives. But, there’s also no reason why these fears can’t be addressed – and even some plans modified accordingly, if needed – with clear lines of communications.

As we went to press this week, Stewart reached out to amend a key figure in one of the charts EverWind used at its open houses, correcting the number of hectares in Wind Farm 3 from 15,571 to 25,777. It’s an example of a communications error that impacts trust.

Keep it clear, indeed. And accurate.