Bathurst's plan for wind farm on Acadian Peninsula disturbs neighbours
City is majority partner in group planning to install five turbines at Anse-Bleue
The City of Bathurst is the leading partner in a proposed Acadian Peninsula wind farm that's drawn the ire of nearby residents.
The city has sought provincial approval to borrow up to $20 million for the project about 56 kilometres northwest of Bathurst, but councillors won't talk about it.
Plans filed with the provincial government for environmental approval call for five wind turbines on private land near Anse-Bleue south of Route 320.
Called the Chaleur Ventus Energy Project, it's expected to generate up to 20 megawatts of power. That's estimated to be enough to power up to 9,000 homes.
Radio-Canada sought to talk to Bathurst's mayor and city councillors about the municipality's role with the project recently. None provided interviews or commented about the plans following a public meeting in late October where residents raised concerns.
CBC requested an interview with the mayor last week, but a spokesperson for the city said some details need to be finalized before anyone from the city will comment.
Mayor Paolo Fongemie had previously told Radio-Canada last month that he believes the project will have positive spin-offs that will allow investments in health, education, the environment and arts and culture.
"It's a bit for the betterment of the planet, too," Fongemie said.
Whether that means the city will see payments once the wind farm is operational is unclear. Documents filed for environmental approval says the project's community benefits include a partnership with the city ensures it "has a sizeable regional economic impact from the beginning until termination in 2050."
Residents who live near the proposed wind farm voiced concerns about the plans at a consultation meeting last month. Members of a group called Imaginons la Péninsule Acadienne Autrement told Radio-Canada they feel that the community is facing a done deal.
Resident Christine Lemay said the group was told there's support in Bathurst for the project.
"I don't think that's the case because people have just learned that the project is going to go forward, that the agreements are already signed. … It was a little fast, or it was done in a way that seemed hidden," Lemay said.
The group's members also question the environmental impact the wind farm may have in the area.
Bathurst residents told Radio-Canada they want more information.
"It seems that it would be in the interest of the citizens, the taxpayers," Jean-Paul Haché said. "They should know what's going on."
Bathurst city council voted at a special meeting Aug. 8, 2018, to seek authorization from the municipal capital borrowing board to borrow up to $20.4 million for renewable energy projects, meeting minutes show.
Borrowing up to $20.4 million would represent a substantial increase to the city's debt. Provincial records show the city had $28.9 million in outstanding debt as of Jan. 1, 2019.
While the capital borrowing board considered the request in September 2018, it was tabled. Erika Jutras, a spokesperson for the Department of Environment and Local Government, said department staff continue to work with the city on this file.
Two days after the special meeting, the city filed paperwork to incorporate a company called Association Mieux-Être Bathurst Wellness Association Inc. Corporate records say its purpose is to enter into limited partnerships to directly or indirectly design, develop, construct, finance, manage and maintain wind power generation in the province.
In September of this year, documents filed as part of an environmental impact assessment say that the Bathurst association will have a 51 per cent interest in the project about 50 kilometres east of the community. Windforce Investment Inc. represents the remaining 49 per cent.
Fredericton-based Teksuk Management Inc. is also a partner and responsible for development, construction, and operation of the project.
Teksuk is a subsidiary of Naveco Power Inc., a company that says it secured a 30-year power purchase agreement with NB Power.
Last year NB Power acknowledged it was close to signing deals with two non-Indigenous communities to buy power from a pair of small, 20-megawatt wind farms, but the utility wouldn't specify who the two were.
Under something called the Locally Owned Renewable Energy Small Scale program, or LORESS, the provincial government required NB Power to sign contracts to buy energy from four separate small wind projects — two Indigenous and two with non-Indigenous communities.
The program aims to hit a target of 40 per cent of the electricity generated in the province from renewable sources by 2020.
At its last rate hearing in May, NB Power said the two non-Indigenous communities were selected but wouldn't reveal who they were.
"We are still in negotiations with the two (non-Aboriginal) entities, so it wouldn't be proper at this particular point in time until we conclude those discussions to make known who those parties are," Keith Cronkhite, an NB Power vice-president, said at the hearing.
The 159-page document filed for the environmental assessment indicates that, assuming it receives necessary approvals, construction would begin in early 2020 and begin operating later in the year. It is anticipated the turbines, which could be up to 194 metres tall, would run for 30 years.
With files from Radio-Canada and Robert Jones