How Bauline hopes to go small-town green in a big way

If all goes according to plan, by this time next year the Town of Bauline is going to be generating its own energy, with the installation of solar panels, a wind turbine and a micro-hydro turbine on a local creek.

The small town is betting big on being able to get its community centre off the grid by 2020.

"Our timeline right now, if everything falls into place, is in 2020 to have 200 solar panels on the roof, a small turbine, and have this building operating at full 100 per cent green," said town manager Craig Drover.

The idea was first floated at the town council back in 2017, and Drover said they've been working on ways to get the town relying more on green energy.

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But it's not just town buildings they're looking at; Drover said the hope is to eventually install charging stations for electric vehicles, as well as help its residents get rebates on more environmentally friendly alternatives.

"One of the big things is that our community is a small community, it's only 177 households — 450 people — and so our infrastructure from a town's perspective is fairly small, so it's a fairly small footprint," Drover said.

The community centre is brand new, "with all the amenities," he told CBC's St. John's Morning Show, which would make it the logical first step.

"If we can turn this building green … and then the pumphouse and things like that, that's already giving back to the residents, right? Because that's something we don't have to pay for," he said.

"For us, we're looking at probably $24,000 to $25,000 a year that we will save. And it goes right back to the town — that's a benefit to all our residents."

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With the prospect of higher power rates with the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project coming online, Bauline Coun. Chris Palmer said it's a logical move, but Muskrat Falls isn't the only reason.

"I think even if Muskrat Falls was not a factor, for two reasons we could still look at doing the panels and the turbine," Palmer said, adding that it would mean saving on power bills.

"But also environmentally, it's a reasonable thing to do. The project is not just — I mean, at the moment it is to have the public buildings having green energy, but the long-term goal is for the … residents in the community, maybe they get an advantage in 10 years' time. If we have half of Bauline interested in getting their energy from solar sources, why not?"

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Drover said the town is still waiting on a couple of funding applications to come through, but he's optimistic everything will go according to plan.

The way net-metering works in Newfoundland and Labrador is different, Drover said, meaning that excess power generated by the town can't be sold back to the grid system the same as in other provinces, like Ontario.

"That doesn't happen here in Newfoundland, but there is still a way that you can take care of your own electrical usage and also get some benefit from Newfoundland Power," Drover said.

This time next year, the town hopes that construction will be well underway.

"And by the end of next year, our hope is to start reaping the benefits of the lower-energy costs here in the building," Drover said.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador