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Officials pose for a photo in front of a wind turbine during the grand opening of the Burchill Wind Energy project in Saint John on June 6, 2023. Image: Brad Perry

Saint John’s first wind project marks grand opening

By Brad Perry Jun 7, 2023 | 6:57 AM

A 10-turbine wind energy project located in a west Saint John community is officially up and running.

More than 100 people gathered in Lorneville on Tuesday afternoon for the grand opening of the Burchill Wind Energy project.

The project is a partnership between Natural Forces, a private independent power producer, and Neqotkuk (Tobique First Nation), which is the majority owner.

Robert Apold, executive director of Natural Forces, said it will be an “extremely reliable” energy source for the city.

“It’s not going to be the silver bullet that some people might hope for but we think it’s a big piece of the answer that is needed to fight the climate change emergency that we’re in currently,” Apold told reporters.

The energy that is produced by Burchill will be sold to Saint John Energy at a locked-in rate for 25 years.

Officials said the 42-megawatt wind farm — the first for the city — will produce enough power to supply up to 15 per cent of the city’s energy needs.

The project was initially set to be up and running by the end of 2021 but faced delays as a result of the pandemic and supply chain challenges.

“It was not an easy project to complete, so when you have to climb such a high mountain, it makes it all the more beneficial at the end,” said Apold. “You feel so good that you made it to the top.”

Natural Forces is hoping for an overall reliability rate above 98 per cent, which Apold said is better than most carbon plants.

“The issue always comes down to when the wind is not blowing, that’s what most people complain about,” he said.

It is anticipated the turbines will be producing some level of energy at least 85 to 90 per cent of the time, said Apold.

Neqotkuk Chief Ross Perley said the partnership with Natural Forces means a lot to his community.

“This is part of our unceded Wolastoqey territory. We’ve got reserve here, the Brothers Islands, but we’ve never really had a footprint for business, for economic development, for relationship building with the city,” said Perley.

Perley said there is a lack of support from the provincial government when it comes to projects like this for First Nation communities.

“I think that there’s a reluctance to work with First Nations when it comes to economic development by the current province. They like to do things on their terms only and that’s the problem,” said Perley.

“This is an example of success that the province should take note of.”

Burchill is the second wind project for the Tobique First Nation and Natural Forces. The Wocawson Wind Energy project, located northeast of Sussex, began operating in December 2020.

Phase one of the project consisted of five turbines with a total capacity of 20 megawatts. There is an optional second phase that may consist of another five turbines but there is no immediate timeline at this point.

Perley said they are hoping to work with Natural Forces on more projects in the future.

“There are already plans. We’ve just got to find the right utility to work with us,” he said.

The total project cost for Burchill is around $97 million, according to Apold. Nearly $50 million was contributed by the federal government.


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