Natural Forces driving renewables through community partnerships
A private, independent power producer with deep roots in the Maritimes is generating interest in renewable energy with its focus on small-scale wind, solar and hydro projects for communities and First Nations.
Natural Forces, based in Halifax, has recently completed a single turbine project located near Richibucto, N.B., in partnership with the Pabineau First Nation. It’s the latest of several Maritime wind projects either in development or in operation, including the first wind farm in New Brunswick at Kent Hills and the Wocawson Energy Project near Sussex in partnership with Tobique First Nation.
The Richibucto wind project, which is owned on a 50-50 basis with Natural Forces, is estimated to supply enough electricity to power approximately 900 homes per year, a boon for the small Mi'gmaq First Nation of about 340 people.
Former chief David Peter Paul says the turbine is an invaluable way for the community to “tap into our own source revenues.” (Watch video: https://vimeo.com/424137137)
Natural Forces is also the chosen proponent for the Burchill wind energy project announced by Saint John Energy. The project will consist of up to 10 wind turbines with a total installed capacity up to 42 MW, connecting to the Saint John Energy electrical grid.
Andy MacCallum, vice-president of development at Natural Forces, says the company develops, constructs, owns
, and operates wind, solar , and hydro projects with First Nation communities, universities, municipalities and local community funds. It has offices in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Ireland.
The company says its “passion” is to build relationships that harness Canada’s and Ireland's natural resources in an environmentally responsible and cost effective way. It partners with local communities to generate renewable electricity and deliver local economic prosperity.
“Really, that’s the space we play in across Canada and in other countries,” MacCallum said in an interview.
“No one else was stepping in to fulfill that role. We saw an opportunity, many opportunities, to develop these smaller wind farms in partnership with communities that want to be part of the clean-energy revolution. We saw an opportunity and a need to take this approach across Canada.”
MacCallum said the company is enthusiastic about its partnerships with First Nation communities because it shares the same values with indigenous people in respect to stewardship and protection of the land.
He said the company has not been hit too hard by the coronavirus pandemic. He said the company is currently hiring six more employees to add to its staff of about 30 people. He said the only slowdown has been in the manufacture of the turbines which has slightly set back some construction timelines.
While MacCallum sees a bright future for the renewables industry in Canada, he would like to see bolder policy moves in New Brunswick that would encourage local development.
“Even a small incremental increase in renewables in New Brunswick will make a big difference if done properly, if it includes community groups and First Nations. It can have a really positive effect on the economy….We’re kind of waiting for that.”