East Coast power trip

East Coast power trip
(From left) NB Power president and CEO Gaetan Thomas, Tobique First Nation chief Ross Perley and Natural Forces Andy McCallum at the signing of The Wocawson wind farm power purchase agreement.

First Nation completes major milestone in plan to develop New Brunswick wind farm

NB Power Inc. has entered into its first power purchase agreement under a new provincial program designed to stimulate renewable energy development among First Nation communities.

The Crown corporation announced the deal in late March, which it struck with the Tobique First Nation and Halifax-based renewable energy developer, Natural Forces. As this magazine went to press, the 30-year agreement was the first one signed under the New Brunswick government’s Locally Owned Renewable Energy Projects that is a Small Scale program that was launched in 2016. The program allows NB Power to obtain up to 40 megawatts of renewable energy from First Nations and an additional 40 MW of renewable energy from local entities.

The wind farm that Tobique First Nation and Natural Forces are partnering on is called the Wocawson project. Andy McCallum, vice-president, developments for Natural Forces, says the farm will have five or six turbines capable of producing 20 MW of renewable energy if it is built. The Wocawson site is located 20 kilometres east of the town of Sussex.

The power purchase agreement doesn’t mean the wind farm is a done deal. But it does mean the two partners have a customer to sell their power to for 30 years if it is built. McCallum says the project must undergo a provincial environmental assessment. He says the partners hope to submit their application to regulators by October. “Signing the power purchase agreement is an important milestone, but there is still a lot of risk involved,” McCallum says. “Hopefully in two years time we’ll have some turbines up and running there.”

The cost to build the project is pegged at approximately $50 million. The partners hope to spend approximately $13 million of that locally, and throughout the province. McCallum says not only will the wind farm provide the province with clean, renewable energy at a time when the federal government has legislated a price on carbon emissions, but he also thinks it’s a great tool for rural economic development.

He says the real payoff will come from the $5–$6 million in annual revenue the First Nation will receive selling the wind farm’s power. “It can take that revenue and deploy it however it likes. This is a huge advantage. You can be flexible, and the revenue has no strings attached to it,” McCallum says.

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