The town of Annapolis Royal, N.S., is thinking about getting into the renewable energy business to help offset the big bucks it will soon lose when Nova Scotia Power permanently closes the Annapolis tidal generating station.
But to succeed, the town says it needs the capacity on the electrical grid that's already assigned to Nova Scotia Power's 20-megawatt station.
The company is appearing before the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board Monday to seek permission to permanently close the 37-year-old facility, which has been idle for two years following an equipment failure.
"We're hoping the regulators will tell Nova Scotia Power that yes, they can shut their plant down — but they have to leave the capacity on the grid that plant had owned for other users," said Bill Crossman of Soluna Energy.
Crossman is partnering with the town to develop a small-scale tidal power pilot project in nearby Digby Gut.
"What we're asking is that Nova Scotia Power include in its decommissioning, reserving a certain amount of that capacity for the area so that tidal opportunities here aren't stranded," he said.
Much of the hearing's focus will be on whether ratepayers will have to pay Nova Scotia Power $28 million over the next decade to write off the asset, but Annapolis Royal sees an opportunity to make up for future revenue loss.
Mayor Amery Boyer said revenues this year for the town from the tidal generating station were $380,000, which represents about 18 per cent of the town's budget.
"It is significant," he said.
Boyer will participate remotely in the hearing.
The Soluna Energy proposal is a small-scale tidal project featuring several freestanding turbines in shallow water.
The pilot requires access to the grid for two megawatts of capacity.
Money for the estimated $400,000 cost would come from available federal renewable energy grants to Canadian municipalities, but they haven't been secured.
If successful, the development would expand into a municipal electric utility requiring 20 megawatts capacity.
Boyer said as a "community-minded" company, Nova Scotia Power should make the grid space available.
"I think it's important for them to hear any reasonable arguments for why having tidal megawatt capacity in this area would be a good thing for them and a good thing for us and our neighbours," he said.
Nova Scotia Power declined a request to speak about the issue.
"As stated at the time of the filing, our focus is always looking at what is the lowest cost option and in the best interest of our customers," said spokesperson Jacqueline Foster in an email.
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