Mi'kmaq communities in Nova Scotia are completing a four-stage project that will see them put more energy into the grid than they collectively use.
Delegates at the Nova Scotia Mi'kmaq Energy and Innovation Summit held this week in Membertou heard the final project in Amherst will soon come online.
"With projects completed and planned, Mi'kmaq wind projects would be producing more electricity than they use in their communities," Murray Coolican, deputy minister for energy, told CBC News.
4 projects generating 20 megawatts
Steve Parsons is the vice-president of Beaubassin Mi'kmaq Wind Management, a company owned by the 13 band councils in Nova Scotia.
He said the summit demonstrated the power of Mi'kmaq participation in the energy sector.
"Overall, we've developed 20 megawatts of power and we wanted to showcase that to government, to other First Nations within the province and outside of the province," he said Tuesday.
It's coming from four wind farm projects. Three are complete:
Truro Heights Community Wind
- Owned by Eskasoni First Nation, this wind farm generates 4.4 megawatts.
Millbrook Community Wind
- With three wind turbines, this project generates 6.5 megawatts, enough to power 3,300 homes. It's led by Millbrook First Nation.
Whynotts Community Wind
- This wind farm near Bridgewater generates six megawatts. It's led by Kwilmu'kw Maw-klusuaqn, or the Mi'kmaq Rights Initiative.
The fourth project is the Amherst Community Wind Farm. Work on one turbine continues this week and should be done by the weekend. The second turbine will go up next and should be built by late October.
The turbines will start working before the end of the year. They will generate six megawatts.
Plans for more wind and tidal energy projects
"They are generating power that's being sold back to Nova Scotia Power," said Parsons. "Each turbine can produce enough energy to carry the load for 400 homes on average."
They use the profits to pay off project debts, and then split the money among the bands. The deal with Nova Scotia Power sets the rates for 20 years. It came out of the defunct COMFIT program.
"We'd love to have more community feed-in tariffs programs," Parsons said. "Unfortunately COMFIT … is not continued."
He hopes the government will create similar projects to tap into wind or tidal energy. In the meantime, Beaubassin Mi'kmaw Wind Management will seek business investors to start similar projects in the future.
Part of $1B economic impact
Parsons said the summit also highlighted one of the ways Indigenous communities in Atlantic Canada contribute more than $1 billion to the region's economy every year.
"It just goes to show that collectively, working together, recognizing the efforts of all people that live in Atlantic Canada — and the Mi'kmaq in particular — we are contributors to the economy," he said.
"We wanted to see exactly what role we do play, and we play a significant role."