Nova Scotia

Crown corporation may inherit failed Pictou County wind turbine plant

Nova Scotia Lands may be the best option left for trying to make something out of the $56 million taxpayers pumped into a failed wind-turbine plant, says Business Minister Geoff MacLellan.

Money for upkeep of the former DSME plant runs out in May

The Nova Scotia government pumped more than $56 million into DSME Trenton Ltd., also known as DSTN, which is majority owned by a South Korean subsidiary of shipping giant Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering. (CBC)

A mild winter has offered the former DSME Trenton wind turbine plant a brief reprieve from possible liquidation.

Nova Scotia Business Minister Geoff MacLellan says the money saved in heating costs this winter has left enough money for upkeep of the site till May.

That's likely when the province will have to decide what to do with the site, which has remained idle for two years.

Since the Korean-owned facility filed for receivership in February 2016, the receiver Pricewaterhouse Coopers has spent about $4 million maintaining the facility. It still has about $370,000 in an account to pay to keep the lights on.

Efforts to diversify business at DSTN fell flat and the company filed for receivership in 2016. (CBC)

MacLellan visited the site this past February and said he realized handing it over to Nova Scotia Lands might be the best option short of liquidation, which he characterized as the "worst-case scenario."

"After I had toured the facility and saw that some of the precinct is extremely valuable, while other places, certainly some of the buildings, have to be remediated and really should be left as a green space the Nova Scotia Lands option became much more viable," he said. 

Minister points to Sydney Steel Plant

Speaking to reporters at Province House Wednesday, MacLellan pointed to the success the Crown corporation had with the former Sydney Steel Plant lands.

"Lots of the land that was capped because of the contaminants that were there was just left as a green space," he said. "Some of the buildings were developed, redeployed, sold and then other spots were made to be community facilities, have new buildings on them."

The province had been hoping to sell the Pictou County facility and a number of companies expressed an interest, but MacLellan said those discussions went nowhere. 

"We're still hopeful that there is a suitor that would buy it in its entirety," he said, but if not Nova Scotia Lands is an option. It has until May to decide. 

PC MLA Pat Dunn, who represents the area, is still optimistic the plant will be used for something. (Jean Laroche/CBC)

Although the minister has already started to look beyond the sale of the overall site, PC MLA Pat Dunn, who represents the area, has not.

"I am optimistic that something can happen," he said.

"As a person who grew up in that town and a lot of my relatives worked there since 1883, I feel there's an opportunity for something to happen at this facility."

Asked if he knew something the minister didn't, Dunn said, "It would be premature for me to answer that question."

DSME Trenton Ltd. did not make money on any contracts or achieve job targets during its 5 years in operation. (CBC)

When the previous NDP government announced the partnership between the province and Daewoo, the promise was to eventually create 400 to 500 jobs.

Taxpayers invested $56 million for a 49 per cent stake, while the Korean company put in $10 million and retained control of the plant, which created wind turbines.

That partnership failed when the province called a $32-million loan in February 2016.

Before building wind turbines, the site was home to Greenbriar-owned TrentonWorks, which made railway cars. That enterprise failed in April 2007.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jean Laroche

Reporter

Jean Laroche has been a CBC reporter for 32 years. He's been covering Nova Scotia politics since 1995 and has been at Province House longer than any sitting member.

now