NB Power has started exploring whether to build a 100-megawatt generating station in Grand Falls to produce more clean energy.
The corporation says it will do environmental and geotechnical studies and site testing and consult with First Nations and local residents before applying for an environmental impact assessment later this year.
The project is in the early stages and will require study, fieldwork, engineering and environmental approvals prior to going ahead, Gaëtan Thomas, NB Power president and chief executive officer, said in a news release Friday.
"If feasible, it would be an important source of clean energy to our fleet and, we believe, would provide NB Power with even greater capability to provide generation for our customers inside the province and possibly in the New England market," Thomas said.
If approved, the station would require several new structures, including a second tunnel.
Grand Falls already has a 66-megawatt generating station.
Premier Brian Gallant said in a statement the province is pleased NB Power is exploring clean energy options, and another Grand Falls station would be good for the economy,.
"We will work with the people of the region as the project moves through the appropriate phases," he said.
A second unit at Grand Falls has the potential to help NB Power meet its long-term clean energy requirements.
By 2020, 40 per cent of the utility's in-province electricity sales must come from renewable sources.
Green Party Leader David Coon welcomed the news NB Power was exploring the Grand Falls option.
"We need to be doing a lot more to reach ultimately 100 per cent renewable power in New Brunswick and this is an obvious one waiting in the wings for a long time."
Coon's said this is the type of project that could reduce the province's use of coal at Belledune.
"The purpose of doing this is its got to contribute to expanding the use of renewables to produce power for New Brunswickers enabling us to reduce the use of coal at Belledune. We've got to phase out Belledune."
Coon, however, did express reservations with the potential plan to export the additional generated power.
"We've got to get our carbon pollution down to targets," he said. "If they simply exported the electricity from the new addition at Grand Falls that would benefit us in no way."
The plan for the new generating station follows the steps outlined in the province's 2016 Climate Change Action Plan.
The community renewable energy program allows NB Power to procure up to 80 megawatts of small-scale renewable energy from First Nations and local entities.