A push by Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro to reduce diesel consumption in isolated communities not connected to the primary power grid could mean good things for a long-dormant mini-hydroelectric plant in the Labrador community of Mary's Harbour.
Retired engineer Allan Green and his partners built the plant on the Mary's Harbour River in 1987, and it met a small portion of the community's power needs for about a decade.
Green's company was paid an amount equal to the value of the diesel fuel that was saved, he explained.
'It seems like all the conditions are right for it to operate … It would certainly be a shame to see it dormant.' - Allan Green
But some safety issues forced the plant to close, and it's been offline for six or seven years.
Green said he's now in active talks with Hydro, and hopes to finalize a new contract that could see the facility reopened, perhaps as early as 2017.
"What we need is a contract with a term sufficient for us to recover the money that we have to invest," Green said Monday from his office in Nova Scotia, explaining that the plant requires extensive upgrades.
Searching for alternatives to fossil fuels
Mary's Harbour is one of a handful of communities in the province — most of which are along Labrador's south and north coast — that use diesel generators to provide electricity.
It's costly and not the most environmentally friendly way of generating power.
As such, the provincial government has made no secret of its intention to cost-effectively reduce diesel consumption in off-grid communities.
One example of this is a unique research and development project in Ramea, on Newfoundland's south coast, that will combine wind, hydrogen and diesel power. It's still in the development stage.
Green thinks the renewable, clean energy produced by his plant can also help achieve part of that goal.
'The provincial government will continue to explore ways of reducing diesel in isolated communities.' - Siobhan Coady
"We've sunk a lot of money into the plant over the years," he said.
"It seems like all the conditions are right for it to operate. Carbon credits, green movement, and with the price of diesel fuel being what it is now as opposed to what it was in '87. It would certainly be a shame to see it dormant."
Interested in 'alternative energy sources'
Mary's Harbour is located on the south coast of Labrador, between Port Hope Simpson in the north and Red Bay in the south. It is home to roughly 100 households.
Green estimates the plant can provide between 15 and 20 per cent of the community's power needs — about 800,000 kilowatt hours annually — and displace about 270,000 litres of diesel every year.
Hydro confirmed Monday that talks with Green and his company, Mary's Harbour Hydro, are ongoing, and added, "to date, contract terms, including length of contract, have not been agreed upon."
Meanwhile, Natural Resources Minister Siobhan Coady has made it clear the province is looking at ways of integrating "alternative energy sources" in order to lower diesel usage.
"The provincial government will continue to explore ways of reducing diesel in isolated communities and to move to energy options using clean technology," Coady said in a statement to CBC News.
"As always, the protection of ratepayers is of utmost importance and we will continue to explore opportunities that are the right fit for our province."
Since 2008, the provincial government has provided $3.5 million to NL Hydro to explore energy alternatives for coastal Labrador, including wind and hydro power.
A coastal wind monitoring program has also been completed, focusing on the communities of Nain, Hopedale, Makkovik, Cartwright and L'Anse-au-Loup.
Coady said the province and Crown corporation Hydro are working together on a way forward, and community consultations are being planned.