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Chester hoping to harness wind power

CHESTER – The Municipality of Chester has formally announced its intention to undertake a revenue-generating wind-to-energy project.

The municipality has applied to the province to develop a 2.3-megawatt wind-to-energy project under the provincial COMFIT renewable energy program. COMFIT (Community-Based Feed-in Tariff) is an incentive program to establish an energy supply using natural and sustainable resources.

Development will be at the Kaizer Meadow site where the Minas Basin Pulp and Power Corporation has been collecting wind data for the past two years. The municipality has agreed to use Minas Basin Pulp and Power’s services to oversee the design, construction and long-term operation of the facility.

“The project cost is estimated at approximately $5 million and will generate a positive cash flow beginning in Year 1 of just under $270,000,” says Allen Webber, warden for the Municipality of Chester. “Revenue will increase annually over the 20-year life of the project to approximately $700,000 in Year 20.”

The power generated at the site would be sold to Nova Scotia Power to be used on its distribution grid at the 20-year fixed rate of $131 per megawatt hour.

“There’s a number of reasons we are undertaking this project,” Mr. Webber said. “But essentially, if you look at municipalities there are few ways they have of generating revenue other than through property tax revenue and that has become quite a burden. We view this as potential relief of that burden for the taxpayer.”

Initially the COMFIT program allowed for municipalities or towns to form a private partnership in creating an alternate energy source. That has since changed meaning the municipality is on the hook for the entire $5 million.

“So it’s a case of borrowing money and using some of our reserve funding,” Mr. Webber said.

The province will review all applications over 90 days. The municipality will know of the province’s decision in the latter part of December.

“We have no reason to think our application wouldn’t be approved,” Mr. Webber said. “The project is consistent with the objectives of our integrated community sustainability plan by creating economic activity and reducing our carbon footprint. Revenue will lessen our dependence on property taxes as the only way to support the growth and development of our community and its long-term sustainability.”

Nova Scotia’s Renewable Electricity Plan, established in 2010, calls for 40 per cent of the province’s electricity to be generated from renewable sources such as wind, biomass and tidal energy by 2020.

A portion of that target has been set aside for small projects, to be developed by municipalities, Mi’kmaq bands and other community groups.

“Community groups from across the province are eager to get going with this opportunity,” said Energy Minister Charlie Parker in a media release. “With these directives in hand, they can start preparing their applications.”

The program aims to achieve at least 100 megawatts of its mandate through smaller-scale, community-based renewable energy projects, while relying more heavily on better suited wind, tidal, hydro and biomass larger-scale projects to achieve the balance of its objectives.

For more information on the COMFIT program, visit the Nova Scotia Department of Energy website at http://www.gov.ns.ca/energy.