Tobique First Nation invests in $50M wind farm near Sussex
Project will make the First Nation $3 million a year and produce enough energy to power 6,000 homes
Tobique First Nation will be majority owner of a $50-million wind energy farm near Sussex that will begin selling energy to NB Power near the end of 2019.
Chief Ross Perley said it took three years of working with Nova Scotia-based Natural Forces and NB Power to get to this point, and he hopes the $3 million in annual revenue will help the First Nation fill some gaps in housing and education.
"We're looking at a 200-lot subdivision and we hope that some of this revenue will help offset that cost," he said.
"I know you can't go wrong investing in education. We have a post-secondary program that we can subsidize. We also have a band-operated school that we can put more resources in there for our younger learners."
Natural Forces, with 49 per cent ownership of the project, has leased Crown land about 20 kilometres northeast of Sussex, between Route 114 and Portage Vale.
Six turbines will go up there, said Andy MacCallum, the renewable energy company's vice-president of development.
"All the electricity generated from the wind farm will be sold to NB Power, and Natural Forces and Tobique will reap the benefit of that sale of power," MacCallum said.
Stewards of the land
Tobique will be responsible for 51 per cent of the cost of building the wind farm, and Natural Forces the rest. No government financing is involved.
Perley said it's important to him and the residents of Tobique to have a project that's both lucrative and environmentally sustainable.
"We have to move away at some point to non-carbon energy sources," he said. "Moving towards solar and other green renewable energies is the way to the future, and us as a community need to take part of that. ... It's part of our duty as stewards of Mother Earth is to take care of it."
He said he hopes Tobique will be a leader among First Nations in Atlantic Canada in the renewable energy market. The First Nation is also looking at a solar plant, but it's just in the beginning stages.
Projects across Canada
MacCallum said Natural Forces has partnerships with First Nations across Canada, and all have expressed the importance of being environmentally sustainable.
"First Nations groups certainly believe in the benefits of renewable energy and how it's good for the planet," he said.
This partnership came out of a provincial project called LORESS, which stands for Locally Owned Renewable Energy Projects that are Small Scale.
The program allows NB Power to obtain up to 40 megawatts of renewable energy from two First Nations and an additional 40 megawatts from municipalities or other local entities.
The Sussex-area wind farm will provide 20 megawatts, which could power about 6,000 homes, said NB Power spokesperson Marc Belliveau.
He said no agreement has been signed yet with a second First Nation, "but the process is well underway."
MacCallum said that at the end of the project's lifespan 30 years from now, there will be two options: to "re-power" or refurbish the turbines and sign another contract, or to decommission them and reclaim the land.
He said the Sussex location was the best option for the project because of its higher elevation and its distance from houses and environmentally sensitive areas such as parks and wetlands.
It is also close to the existing NB Power grid.