New Brunswick

Group looks at luring wind farm project previously rejected by neighbouring community

After facing backlash from residents in Anse-Bleue, a proposed wind farm by Naveco Power is attracting interest from a non-profit group that wants to bring the project to its neighbouring community.

Naveco Power's proposed wind farm in the community of Anse-Bleue has been the target of criticism

A non-profit group that is trying to bring a wind turbine project to the community of Pokeshaw says it's interested in having talks with Naveco Power. Pictured are wind turbines in operation north of Shelburne, Ont. (David Donnelly/CBC)

A wind energy project that's not wanted in a tiny community in northeast New Brunswick could find a new home just down the road.

A local non-profit group that was trying to lure wind turbines to Pokeshaw and Black Rock, on the Acadian Peninsula, says it would welcome Fredericton-based Naveco Power relocating its project from nearby Anse-Bleue.

"We would certainly be willing to accommodate Naveco. We're very close to a transmission line," says Kevin Whelton, head of the Pokeshaw and Black Rock Recreation Council.

The council was working with a Quebec-based developer, Potentia Renewables, to build five wind turbines in the area overlooking the Bay of Chaleur. 

But NB Power turned down Potentia's request last year for a one-year extension to its deadline to get the turbines built and operating.

Instead the utility gave the project just three months to resolve supply chain problems brought on by COVID-19.

"It was just impossible to do it within that time frame," Whelton says.

Kevin Whelton, head of the Pokeshaw and Black Rock Recreation Council (Submitted by Kevin Whelton)

The recreation council has been pursuing wind-energy projects for more than a decade and Whelton says it would now consider partnering with Naveco.

He says there hasn't been nearly the same opposition to wind farms in the community as there has been in Anse-Bleue.

"We've had a lot of meetings, we've been very open, very, very transparent, and I think the majority of the residents of the two communities, Pokeshaw and Black Rock, do agree to the windmills," he says. 

"You have to have social licence. You have to have transparency."

The Pokeshaw site is even closer to the NB Power grid than Anse-Bleue, so there would be a shorter distance, and fewer properties, to cover with transmission lines needed to connect.

Naveco's plan to build five wind turbines in Anse-Bleue, about 15 kilometres away, has met with fierce opposition there.

One issue now being studied as part of the environmental impact assessment is whether the turbines would be visible from the Village Historique Acadien, a major tourist site. 

Last October Naveco CEO Amit Virmani told CBC news he was looking at an alternate site in southern New Brunswick that would involve First Nations and would not require restarting the environmental impact assessment from scratch.

He said walking away from Anse-Bleue would require NB Power's agreement to change their contract. 

But last month Anse-Bleue residents said Naveco's local representative was again meeting with people in the area, a sign the company was shifting its focus back to the community. Virmani and NB Power wouldn't comment on whether the utility had rejected a change of location.

Virmani says the utility has asked him not to speak publicly about his project so he can't comment on the idea of moving to Pokeshaw.

Naveco Power CEO Amit Virmani (Jacques Poitras/CBC)

"That's something I'd like to say more on, in terms of if we could come there or not," he says.

He says he's disappointed to hear that the Pokeshaw project is dead.

"That's horrible to hear and that's quite unfortunate, considering it was a competitively bid project that was going to create local jobs," he says.

Both projects would come under a provincial law that allows NB Power to buy up to 20 megawatts of power from small-scale renewable energy projects that are majority owned by a municipality, non-profit community group or First Nations band.

NB Power won't comment on whether it would amend its contract with Naveco to allow the project to move from Anse-Bleue to Pokeshaw. 

The possible locations of the wind farm turbines pitched by Naveco Power southwest of Anse-Bleue on the Acadian Peninsula. (WSP Canada Inc.)

"We cannot discuss either project as we must respect the confidentiality terms of the respective project agreements," said spokesperson Sheila Lagacé.

While he wouldn't comment on his own project, Virmani said a recent report by Auditor General Kim Adair-MacPherson on NB Power's huge debt underscores the importance of wind projects in general. 

"Wind is their cheapest form of energy," he said. "It's cheaper than even buying from Hydro-Quebec."

The Pokeshaw project would have generated enough electricity for 6,000 homes, according to a 2019 press release from Potentia announcing its stake in the project.


Jacques Poitras

Provincial Affairs reporter

Jacques Poitras has been CBC's provincial affairs reporter in New Brunswick since 2000. Raised in Moncton, he also produces the CBC political podcast Spin Reduxit.


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