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Canada: One small town wind farm, 286 owners

David Swan carefully manoeuvres his electric Nissan Leaf up the twisty dirt road that leads to the peak of Spiddle Hill, one of the gentle mountains that dot the region around Tatamagouche in northern Nova Scotia.

At the top, he steps out to survey three wind turbines – one big one and two smaller ones. A few hundred metres away a giant pit in the ground awaits the pouring of a massive amount of cement to form a pad that will support a fourth turbine, to be erected later this summer.
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This little wind farm, about 15 km from Tatamagouche, is just one of dozens in Nova Scotia, hundreds in Canada, and thousands around the world. But it is also highly unusual in that it is owned by 286 people – most of whom live nearby – who have joined together to finance the project, and who will eventually reap dividends from the power it produces. Carpenters, school teachers, farmers and bank employees have invested an average of about $9,000 each, raising more than $2.6-million.

Mr. Swan, an engineer who was born in the Tatamagouche area but who spent much of his career in the United States, spearheaded the effort to build the turbines with local financing. He is also promoting the local use of electric vehicles – he owns several himself and has helped to get four charging stations installed in the tiny community.

The Tatamagouche model of community ownership of a wind project is unusual in Canada, where the vast majority of wind farms are owned by large corporations such as TransAlta Corp. and Enbridge Inc. But it may point the way for an industry that needs more success in getting local residents on side, in order to overcome opposition and make sure that those who live nearby have a stake – and a say – in the way wind farms are built.
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