New Brunswick

Deal for NB Power transmission of SJ wind farm energy is far from certain

Saint John Energy may have failed in its efforts to work out an arrangement with NB Power that would reduce electricity transmission costs for its planned Wind Energy Farm.

Lack of deal could add up to $6M to construction costs

The planned Burchill Wind Project near Saint John's Spruce Lake Industrial Park would see between five and 10 wind turbines built and owned by Natural Forces. All of the power would be sold to Saint John Energy. (Natural Forces)

Saint John Energy may have failed in its efforts to work out an arrangement with NB Power that would reduce electricity transmission costs for its planned Wind Energy Farm.

The utility had hoped to save up to $6 million by hooking into NB Power's transmission lines from the Coleson Cove generating station which pass right by the proposed Burchill Wind Farm site near Lorneville.

The $60 million Burchill Wind Project would see construction of between five and 10 wind turbines on a site just west of the Spruce Lake Industrial Park.

The wind farm would be owned by Halifax based Natural Forces, which would contract with Saint John Energy to buy all of the electricity the farm produces.

Natural Forces recently registered the project for an Environmental Impact Assessment.

But NB Power spokesman Marc Belliveau said the city-owned utility will go ahead with construction of its own links to the city owned utility's electricity grid.

"There were many discussions," said Belliveau. "The electricity Act, as it currently is, does not allow for any entity to tap into our transmission lines."

That said, Saint John Energy vice-president Ryan Mitchell still holds out hope a deal can be worked out to link with the NB Power system.

"We're still waiting for a final decision or direction from the Department of Energy and NB Power," said Mitchell. "Legislation and regulation around energy for this situation is relatively complex."

Saint John Energy CEO Ray Robinson likens use of transmission lines from NB Power's Coleson Cove generating station to using a modern toll highway. (CBC)

In a May, 2019 interview Saint John Energy CEO Ray Robinson said it would require construction of several kilometres of new lines, a "distribution circuit", to carry power from the wind farm to SJE's own sub stations deeper inside the city.

He likened that to using a secondary road when there's a modern toll highway available.

Rising costs

"We can get our produce to market, but it's either by a back road that's narrow and winding and slow and dangerous - and there are going to be losses along the way," said Robinson.

"There's a toll highway that's going right by our production. So are we permitted to access the highway, and if we are, what's the toll rate to access the highway?"

Speaking Friday Mitchell said the cost to build a link to NB Power's Coleson Cove transmission line is estimated at $9 million, while building a completely new distribution circuit to Saint John Energy's sub stations would raise the cost to as much as $15 million, depending on the number of wind turbines constructed on the Burchill site.

Mitchell says Saint John Energy is prepared to go ahead on its own, even at the higher cost.

About the Author

Connell Smith is a reporter with CBC in Saint John. He can be reached at 632-7726 Connell.smith@cbc.ca

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