Wind farm promoters disappointed after Bathurst backs out of 'great opportunity'

Despite the City of Bathurst's decision to pull out of a wind farm project in Anse-Bleue, the promoters are confident another organization will want in on the alternative energy development.

"That project site was actually bid by three different potential local entities, including the City of Bathurst," said Amit Virmani, the founder of Naveco Power. 

"So we'll be reaching out to our other potential partners, along with some folks that have reached us here in the province who are interested in ensuring that this project moves forward." 

The wind farm is planned for private land in the Anse-Bleue area, about 56 kilometres northwest of the city.

Bathurst was the majority partner in the Chaleur Ventus Energy Project with Fredericton-based Naveco Power and NB Power.

The plan is to build five windmills that could power an estimated 9,000 homes. 

But Bathurst decided this week to withdraw an application to borrow money for the project. The city had sought municipal capital borrowing approval to borrow up to $20 million.

"What played into our decision was the cost-benefit or the return-benefit for citizens," said Paolo Fongemie, the mayor of Bathurst, said Tuesday on the city's change of mind. 

Some people in the area of the planned wind farm are opposed to the project and others have said they want to know more about it before it goes ahead. Fongemie said these people didn't influence council.

"There was some protest but that had no bearings on our decision," said the mayor, who previously said the project would have positive spinoffs for the area while also helping the environment. 

"And some citizens of Bathurst thought it was a win for them, but it's not necessarily a win for anyone because the project will go ahead, just not with Bathurst."

Martin Toulgoat/Radio-Canada

According to its website, Naveco Power works with New Brunswick-based partners in clean energy projects to establish renewable energy sources and boost the province's economy. 

Virmani said the Anse-Bleue project would still go ahead, just without help from Bathurst.

"This project will still be viable and at the very least break even or generate a small profit for anyone involved, in a worst-case scenario," he said.

"It's disappointing to see [Bathurst] back out from a great opportunity where they would have been able to help the northern region redevelop industry and in the peninsula."

Virmani said the majority owner must be a municipality, a non-profit organization, an Indigenous community, a co-operative or a research institution.

He said another municipality, an Indigenous community and a co-operative have shown interest in partnering.

"We're trying to bring more people to the province, in migration, build up our team, so we can construct this clean energy project and many more to come in the future," he said, adding that the project would bring at least 100 jobs to the area.

Virmani said the project will likely cost about $40 million and is required by NB Power to be completed by Dec. 31, 2020.