Yves Gagnon hopes to see the development of community-based wind power projects that will provide both a sustainable source of energy and economically benefit New Brunswickers.
Gagnon, the K.C. Irving Chair in Sustainable Development at l’Unversité de Moncton, said the government’s recent launch of a community wind energy initiative shows they recognize the importance of this potential source of energy.
“What the government is realizing in various communities is that we could have more economic impact from wind energy,” he said. “When we look at models where there was more local impact, the concept of community wind appears to be the best wind.”
300 megawatts of wind energy have already been awarded in the province as part of the province’s goal of having 400 megawatts of wind energy developed by 2010. While the request for proposals process often attracts large-scale companies from around the world, the government is also open to ideas that will give New Brunswickers the greatest benefit from the development of wind power.
By community wind, Gagnon means smaller-based wind projects that are locally owned and operated by any number of different types of groups.
“The important aspect is local ownership. It can range from the municipality itself, to the town or the village. It could be a co-operative, it could be a community group, it could also be a local enterprise based on local investors,” he said.
Through the K.C. Irving Chair’s mandate, Gagnon will help recommend two community wind projects to the New Brunswick government. The first is a general program that would help outline what would be required of a community wind project and the second is a specialized program for First Nations wind energy.
As part of the process, Gagnon will visit 10 communities around the province in the upcoming weeks to discuss the prospects of the energy initiative. The public sessions will look at informing the public about the potential of community wind energy, identifying potential obstacles and barriers and attempting to measure the level of interest in projects around the province.
In addition to the public consultation, Gagnon is also offering individual or private meetings for those interested.
From there, in correlation with the extensive research already compiled on wind energy in the province, final recommendations will be made to the government.
Gagnon said it could be a number of years before any community wind initiatives are able to be put fully in place in the province, although many communities have already shown an interest by beginning to measure wind in specific areas.
In order to ensure a viable business venture, Gagnon said a group must use wind resource maps to identify a particular site and then measure the wind for at least a complete year to determine if sufficient revenue would be available at that particular location.
In addition, he said the current delay on ordering the 5-10 wind turbines that would be needed for the proposed 5-15 megawatt wind farms could be upwards of two years.
Gagnon said the report to the government will be submitted by the end of April and hopes a concrete community wind plan can be put in place in this fiscal year.
“It will take 2 to 3 years before we actually see a community wind farm. In wind energy it’s a long process, so communities will need to start now if they want to be part of community wind initiatives,” he said.
The first public consultation will take place at the Club d’âge d’or in Cap- Pelé on March 25.
n For more information on New Brunswick community wind projects and a complete list of dates for public consultations, visit www.nbcommunitywind.ca
By Cole Hobson
Times & Transcript Staff
24 March 2008
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