‘We have a purpose that goes beyond making electricity' - Stevenson
By Alan Johnson
As we celebrate the businesses of Truro and Colchester County during the summer months, it's rewarding to see business ideas that look to the future.
One of the many communities where CoRDA staff members have visited this summer is Tatamagouche. It's a community that's now home to four electric vehicle-charging stations, which is one of the many reasons why the village is becoming known as ‘Trendy Tatamagouche.'
The North Shore region is also home to David Stevenson and David Swan, two of the driving forces behind Colchester-Cumberland Windfield (CCWF), a community venture which generates its own wind power, at a profit, right here in Colchester County.
"We have a purpose that goes beyond making electricity," says Stevenson.
To put their money where their mouths are, the two, along with almost 300 more shareholders, have invested in wind energy using CCWF. It's set up as a Community Economic Development Investment Fund, and it's thriving.
CCWF has built an 800-kilowatt windmill on Spiddle Hill, which is located between Tatamagouche and Nuttby Mountain. That's enough to power most of the homes in Tatamagouche.
"And we're turning out thousands of dollars in revenue each year," says Stevenson. "We've already set up a plan that's been justified to the securities commission to begin paying out shareholder dividends in 2016. They've reviewed it, and we've begun putting the money aside to make sure it happens."
Not only are they preparing to pay money back to their investors, but they're expanding as well. They've raised $2.6 million dollars with four share offerings so far, and they've got plans for another 800-kilowatt wind turbine and a trio of 50-kilowatt wind turbines as well.
Stevenson says that's what Nova Scotia Power's (NSP) grid is capable of handling in the Tatamagouche area, pointing out "the only competition we have is the capacity of the local substation."
As for future horizons, Stevenson and his fellow board members have already begun to look across the Cobequid mountains into the Truro and the Debert area.
He says with several projects being contemplated from Millbrook, Harmony and other areas near Truro, NSP's capacity may also limit investors in those areas. So Debert could "prove interesting."
A former educator, Stevenson is a realist, mostly because he knows that with an electricity monopoly like NSP, change is going to be slow and gradual.
So to boost awareness and, one suspects, to "gently nudge" public opinion toward the value of wind power, he and several others on his board of directors have purchased electric vehicles through the Nova Scotia PowerShare Ready Program.
Their four electric vehicle-charging stations in Tatamagouche and area are geographically well-spaced. The local people using them have no trouble driving their electric cars to Truro, New Glasgow, Pugwash and Wentworth for mere pennies worth of wind power.
For example, Stevenson says driving an electric car from Tatamagouche to Truro and back at the normal posted speed limit only costs about $2 in wind electricity.
They're also producing stickers for local businesses to show their pride in wind power. He says homes and businesses in the Tatamagouche region are indeed powered by wind on Nova Scotia's numerous days with an average wind speed. He says that's proven by calculations from the power grid linking Onslow and Tatamagouche.
All in all, Colchester-Cumberland Windfield is what some would call a pretty futuristic idea with no shortage of local investors. On top of all of this, they're making money and are already preparing to send out dividend cheques in three years time.
Let's take our hats off to these ladies and gentlemen. Despite some of the controversy over wind power, they've seen the need, gathered community input and investors, negotiated with a giant power monopoly and things are still on target for a sustainable investment and environmental profit.
Who says wind power needs to be a problem? Maybe the navigation of wind power issues depends on community consultation, participation and the public's ability to be open-minded about our energy future.
Alan Johnson is director of marketing and communications for the Colchester Regional Development Association. His column appears in this space each month. He can be reached by using firstname.lastname@example.org.