Saint John Energy partners with Halifax company on $60M wind farm

Saint John is one step closer to getting its first wind farm. Saint John Energy has announced Natural Forces as its partner in the $60-million project and New Brunswickers will also have an opportunity to invest.

The Halifax-based renewable energy company, which helped develop New Brunswick's first wind farm in 2008, will build between five and 10 large wind turbines at the Spruce Lake Industrial Park on the city's west side.

Construction is scheduled to begin at the end of next year, employing about 100 workers. The Burchill Wind Energy Project is expected to be be operational by 2022, generating up to 42 megawatts of renewable energy — about 16 per cent of the utility's power demands.

It's expected to save the municipally owned utility $3-$8 million annually, depending on the final scale of the project and system interconnection details, officials said Wednesday.

"Wind energy is one of the most cost-effective sources of renewable energy in the world," Saint John Energy's vice-president Ryan Mitchell said during a news conference at the Hilton Hotel. "We are working to diversify our electricity mix by providing more local, renewable energy to our customers at stable rates."

Saint John Energy CEO Ray Robinson called it a "pivotal day" for the utility and the city.

In addition to cost savings, the project is expected to help reduce reliance on imported energy sources, reduce greenhouse emissions, and attract businesses looking for cheaper and greener energy options.

"We're working to make Saint John one of the greenest and most affordable energy cities in Canada," said Robinson.

An environmental impact assessment and community consultations are expected to begin within weeks, said Andy MacCallum, vice-president of development for Natural Forces.

New Brunswickers will also be able to learn more about how they can buy shares in the project through a community economic development corporation, he said, adding he believes it will be a first for the province.

Natural Forces has sold shares on its wind farm projects in Nova Scotia and it's always been a "huge success," raising over $18 million from more than 1,200 investors, he said. "We sold out every time."

The company hopes to raise about $6 million in investment capital for the Saint John project, said MacCallum.

Economic benefits for the city and province will include more than $8 million in tax revenue, he said.

Natural Forces will design, build, own and operate the wind farm on hills overlooking the Bay of Fundy, not far from NB Power's Coleson Cove oil-fired generating station.

Saint John Energy will buy the wind energy and distribute it to residents and businesses. The price Saint John Energy will pay for power from the wind farm has not been disclosed.

CBC

But based on a per kilowatt hour basis, it will be less than half of its current energy supply costs from NB Power and "in the range" of pricing seen in recent wind projects in Alberta and Saskatchewan, spokesperson Jessica DeLong said in an email.

Saint John Energy pays NB Power about 6.7 cents/kwH for electricity, not including separate electrical "demand charges."

Late last year, Saskatchewan accepted a bid on a wind farm development for an "all in" price of 4.2 cents per kilowatt hour, including transmission costs. In 2017, Alberta accepted a bid of 3.7 cents per kilowatt hour after holding an open auction for wind energy.

Saint John Energy is one of NB Power's largest customers but has been working for months on plans to generate some of its own electricity.

In January, it issued a request for proposals and short-listed the proponents in March.

Natural Forces developed New Brunswick's first wind farm in Kent Hills in partnership with TransAlta and currently has two additional wind energy projects under construction near Sussex and Richibucto in partnership with two First Nation communities.

Founded in 2001, the company develops, constructs, owns and operates wind projects, as well as solar and hydro projects, with First Nation communities, universities,municipalities, and local community funds.

It is based in Halifax, but also has offices in Quispamsis and Dublin, and another soon to open in New York.