ATLANTIC CANADA’S renewable energy industry is expected to expand significantly over the next seven years with $14 billion to be spent on new projects.

This represents an opportunity for businesses to develop new technologies and support the growing industry.

Over 40 energy industry experts will gather in Halifax over the next two days for the third annual Renewable Energy Conference at the Westin Nova Scotian Hotel in downtown Halifax.

Energy consultant and conference organizer Bob Williamson said economics and a greener generation are pushing for cleaner sources of energy.

“I think it’s probably the fact that oil three years ago was $53 a barrel, and this (allowed) renewable energy sources to be viable. Now, (they are) really viable at $130 a barrel and we don’t see (the price of oil) going down over the long term,” said Mr. Williamson.

The conference has come a long way over the past three years.

The first year it was a six-hour workshop with 45 participants. Today the conference is held over two days and has 13 panel discussions, ranging in topics from wind power, tidal power to carbon trading. And there are more than 200 delegates attending from across Canada and the U.S., said Mr. Williamson.

Today, Michael Stoddard, a lawyer and deputy director of Environment Northeast of Portland, Maine, will discuss how renewable energy harnessed in Atlantic Canada can feed the energy-hungry U.S. Northeast.

Mr. Williamson said the region has come a long way in producing wind-generated electricity.

He said four years ago Nova Scotia was one of the largest producers of wind energy, but the region has been eclipsed by major projects in Alberta, Ontario and Quebec.

But that is about to change with Nova Scotia Power recently exceeding its commitment to sign contracts with private wind producers for 240 megawatts of wind-generated electric-ity.

Currently there are 41 wind turbines in Nova Scotia and that number is expected to grow to 300 by 2010, he said.

Across Canada there are 1,398 turbines now generating enough power for 537,000 homes, according to the Canadian Wind Energy Association.

Developing these wind projects will be a major focus of the conference today, with most of the power hitters participating.

Nova Scotia is currently producing 400 megawatts of renewable electricity using wind, tidal and hydro. By 2013 an additional 581 megawatts of green electricity should be produced, enough to power about 175,000 homes, Nova Scotia’s Energy Minister Richard Hurlburt said last month.

Also today, several speakers will address the opportunities for biofuels in the region. Speakers will include Scott Travers, COO of Minas Basin Pulp and Power; Ian Wilson, president of Wilson Fuel Co. Ltd.; Nancy Rondeaux, an engineer with the Energy Department; and Michael Main, research associate with the Nova Scotia Agricultural College.

The keynote speaker at the conference on Wednesday is Gilbert Bennett, vice-president of the Lower Churchill Project in Labrador. This proposed $9-billion project dwarfs many of the other renewable energy projects to be discussed.

The Lower Churchill Project consists of two of the best undeveloped hydroelectric sites in North America — Gull Island, located 225 kilometres downstream from the existing Churchill Falls generating station, and Muskrat Falls, located about 60 kilometres downstream from Gull Island.

Emera, along with its subsidiary, Nova Scotia Power, and Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro recently extended a memorandum of understanding to tie this hydroelectric project into the energy transmission system.

Emera’s president Chris Huskilson recently stated there are three options they are looking at to bring the energy to the Maritimes and New England: a subsea cable to New Brunswick, one to Nova Scotia and a direct route to the U.S. across the Scotian Shelf.