The steady hum of machinery is back on Dalhousie's waterfront, a welcome sign of new activity in New Brunswick's northernmost town.
An underground hydroelectric turbine started operating earlier this month, generating power from the water pipe once used to supply its former paper mill.
Mayor Normand Pelletier said revenue from the turbine will allow the community to explore additional green energy projects and help offset a declining tax base.
"It's a win-win for Dalhousie and the citizens of the town," he said.
Once a hub of industry in northern New Brunswick, mangled fences and thick weeds now surround the empty tract of land where the mill operated.
The town of about 3,000 people lost the pulp and paper industry, a chemical plant and a generating station between 2008 and 2011.
Dalhousie's water pipe was built to supply the now-demolished paper mill from the Charlo Dam. Without the operation, it carries far more water than the town needs.
"We were utilizing one third of that water," Pelletier said. "The rest was being dumped into the Bay of Chaleur."
After the mill closed, the town began conducting studies on the possibility of installing a turbine in the pipe.
The project took six years to complete and cost just over $1 million, with $600,000 from the federal government and $500,000 from the province. The Town of Dalhousie covered the remaining $120,000.
It was expected to start generating power last year, but construction was delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The turbine is expected to last 50 years.
Powering 50 homes
The electricity is being sold back to N.B. Power. It's only the second project of its kind connected to the utility's distribution system, according to spokesperson Marc Belliveau.
Hargrove Hydro, commissioned in the late 1960s, is the other project and is located near Florenceville-Bristol.
Pelletier said the turbine produces enough electricity to power 50 homes in the community for a year.
It is expected to generate revenues between $85,000 and $100,000 per year, which will initially be used to pay off the project.
The mayor said Dalhousie is starting to look at other possible green energy projects for the community, including wind and solar.
"We can use that money for future projects that we're looking at," he said.
"It feels awesome to have this up and running."