Northern mayors hope wind projects blow in money to local towns

Municipal leaders in northern New Brunswick are urging the provincial government to act quickly in adopting a wind energy program that benefits local communities.

Municipal leaders in northern New Brunswick are urging the provincial government to act quickly in adopting a wind energy program that benefits local communities.

Francophone community leaders gathered this week to hear how their municipalities can make the most out of this green energy.

Rénald Haché is the mayor of Lamèque, the small community on the Acadian peninsula that will be home to one of the province's first wind farms. He proudly shows off his silver windmill lapel pin as a symbol of the future economic opportunities these projects may have for the north.

"There's a lot of interest from a lot of municipalities about this new windmill project," Haché said.

At a conference in Beresford this week, Haché and other municipal leaders heard from wind energy experts on how they can minimize the risks and maximize the economic benefits of wind farms.

Communities can own wind farms

Yves Gagnon, a professor at the University of Moncton who holds the K.C. Irving chair in sustainable development, submitted recommendations on wind energy to the province last year and is also urging the provincial government to adopt a community wind energy program.

To make money on wind energy, "you've got to own the wind farms," Gagnon said.

"So by this program communities in New Brunswick would own the wind farm, totally own the wind farm and therefore have the maximum benefit from having this renewable energy in New Brunswick."

Under his recommendations, Gagnon said municipalities would have 100 per cent ownership of energy projects in their municipalities.

Community wind farms would typically be smaller than projects funded by private-sector firms. By building smaller wind farms, communities could afford to pay for them and reap economic benefits from selling the electricity.

A Department of Energy spokesperson said Gagnon's recommendations are being reviewed.

A new energy policy, including wind power, is expected to be announced in the spring.

The New Brunswick government has already announced a series of wind farms across the province:

  • a 99-megawatt project in Caribou Mountain,
  • a 64.5-megawatt wind farm in Aulac,
  • a 49.5-megawatt farm in Lameque,
  • a 21-megawatt power project in Fairfield Hills and 
  • a 75-megawatt wind farm in Kent Hills.