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J.D. Irving gets into wind farm business with $550M project in western N.B.

CANADA (From news reports) -- J.D. Irving Ltd. is taking a leap into the green energy business with plans for a 58-turbine wind farm.

The Brighton Mountain wind farm, near the hamlet of Juniper in Carleton County, will break ground in 2025, pending regulatory approval, the company has announced.

"The power will be sold to N.B. Power which will contribute to decarbonizing the province," says a website created to promote the project.

But there are still some loose ends, as the project needs regulatory approvals and an agreement with N.B. Power to purchase power.

N.B. Power spokesperson D'Arcy Walsh said in an email that N.B. Power does not currently have any power-purchasing agreements with J.D. Irving for the project, "and therefore it would be too early to comment on any aspects of the project at this time."

In 2023, the utility invited proposals for green energy projects in the province with an expectation to be live by 2027, the same timeline Brighton Mountain now gives.

With 58 turbines and a capacity for 350 megawatts, it would decrease the New Brunswick energy grid's reliance on fossil fuels by roughly nine per cent, according to the project website.

But the launch has also been somewhat lowkey. There has been no news release from the province, which normally highlights major business investments and projects of all kinds.

Information session planned

The area for the turbines falls into the municipalities of both Hartland and Carleton North, but neither mayor knew enough about the project to grant an interview.

When reached by phone, Hartland Mayor Tracey DeMerchant said this was the first she was hearing of the project. Carleton North Mayor Andrew Harvey said he's waiting for an information session later this month where he expects to learn more.

Government spokesperson Nick Brown said Natural Resources and Energy Development Minister Mike Holland was unavailable for an interview Thursday but provided an email statement from him.

"As outlined in our Clean Energy Strategy, we intend to significantly grow our wind power generation over the next 12 years," Holland said in the statement, adding the province established goals for N.B. Power to acquire new cost-effective wind power deals.

Holland went on to say "there is a process in place for developing wind farms," and Brighton Mountain still needs to complete a environmental impact assessment and reach a power-purchasing agreement with N.B. Power.

The Brighton Mountain website touts the project as helping reach an agreement between the federal government, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia in October 2023 to phase out coal-fired generation in the electricity sector by 2030, net-zero electricity, or no greenhouse gas emissions, by 2035 and a net-zero economy by 2050.

"Securing clean energy sources to support traditional industries within N.B., such as pulp and paper, will help to maintain the longevity and viability of current JDI operations throughout the province," the environmental impact assessment says.

The project is described as the company's "first wind development project as a proponent," but the assessment says J.D. Irving affiliate companies have experience building and maintaining turbines.

Green leader supports project

Green Party Leader David Coon said the JDI project would be a "big deal" for the province, given wind farm's large size and the fact it's owned by a New Brunswick-based company.

The province only has one wind farm of similar size, the Kent Hills operation near Moncton.

"N.B. Power needs to have a considerable amount of renewable energy come onto the grid this decade in order to meet their requirements with the phase-out of the coal plant in Belledune," Coon said.

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