The winds of change are blowing in a positive direction for Seaforth Energy Inc.
About two-thirds of the windmills the company’s building are destined for Nova Scotia. The remainder are going to Scotland and Italy.
“We’ve got more orders in-house than I think the company’s ever had,” Seaforth president and CEO Mike Morris said Tuesday.
“We’ve got lots of inventory. It’s just about all ready to ship, which is an exciting time.”
The Dartmouth company now employs 18 people.
“Our plan now is to start hiring because we’re going to have a whole pile of machines to install in Nova Scotia over the coming months,” Morris said.
He plans to hire another half-dozen people, but the work won’t stop there.
“One of the ways we operate here is we out-source a lot,” Morris said. “So although we’re 20-ish people, we’re probably driving the work load of maybe double that.”
Seaforth manufactures, installs and maintains the 50-kilowatt AOC 15/50 wind turbine. Installed, they sell for about $300,000. They generate 50 kilowatts of electricity, or about enough to power 10 average Nova Scotia homes.
The machines, which stand on a 30-metre tower with blades that are 15 metres in diameter, are much smaller than the 15 turbines Sprott Power Corp. recently erected in Amherst, Morris said.
“I drove up through Amherst last week and the new Sprott wind farm up there really kind of dominates the landscape now,” he said.
“I think they’re beautiful. I’m an engineer geek, though. My wife, who’s an architect, thinks that they’re the ugliest things on the planet.”
Seaforth, which makes its own blades, sources turbine drive-trains from Montreal’s Delome Services, while control systems are assembled at Dartmouth’s MilAero Electronics Atlantic Inc.
The Municipality of Guysborough is buying five of the windmills. The Colchester-Cumberland Wind Field is also buying a couple for its generating project near Tatamagouche.
“And we have one almost ready to go in New Glasgow, which is owned by the town,” Morris said.
He credits some of the company’s work to a program in which Nova Scotia Power purchases electricity from community-based organizations that build wind, hydroelectric, tidal and biomass electricity generators
“The community feed-in tariff is driving our business locally. And we anticipate that we’re on the up-slope of that.”
A feed-in tariff in the United Kingdom that doesn’t limit who can participate is also helping Seaforth’s bottom line.
“Anyone can buy one and sell their electricity to the local utility for a similar rate to what we get here,” said Morris, noting Italy has a similar program.
Seaforth would benefit from a scheme that allowed more players to get in on the game.
“We’d be tickled to see it opened up even more,” Morris said. “But you know what? We’ve got, I won’t say it’s all that we can handle, but we’re plenty busy with the limited program.”
The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency is slated to make a multimillion-dollar funding announcement at Seaforth Wednesday aimed at several innovative companies. Officials wouldn’t release details Tuesday about what businesses will benefit from the support.
ACOA loaned Seaforth $1.91 million last year to help fund the company’s $2.9-million program aimed at refining the way it builds wind turbines.
By Chris Lambie / The Chronicle Herald