By Jaymie White
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
WEST COAST –On June 21, an undertaking was registered by World Energy GH2 Inc. with the Department of Environment and Climate Change regarding the Port au Port-Stephenville Wind Power and Hydrogen Generation Project (Project Nujio’qonik GH2).
The proposal outlines the intention to construct and operate a maximum 1-gigawatt, 164-turbine onshore wind farm on the Port Au Port Peninsula and would include associated transmission and supporting infrastructure necessary to power a 0.5-gigawatt hydrogen/ammonia production facility in the port of Stephenville.
The Department of Environment and Climate Change responded to inquiries with the following:
“Environmental assessment is a consultative process that provides the public an opportunity to review registered projects and submit questions, comments and concerns to the department,” stated a representative via e-mail.
“The project was registered on June 21, 2022; the deadline for public comments is July 27, 2022 and the minister’s decision is due by August 5, 2022.”
When the proposal details were released and the number of intended turbines was discussed, some residents on the Peninsula expressed concerns about what this will mean for them.
In a letter released by Stella Cornect, Mayor of Cape St. George, she discusses the shock within the community as they were not previously aware of the project’s true scope.
“We cannot speak for the other towns or communities on the Peninsula, but the proposed turbines in our Town are in sensitive wildlife areas, in protected water supply areas, and along the Kittiwake Trail where hundreds of birds are nesting. We are greatly concerned for the birds of prey at risk, migrating birds, the rare flora such as the Mackenzie Sweetvetch, as well as 33 other endangered species located on the Limestone Barrens within the municipal planning boundary of Cape St. George.”
Samantha Turrett, a resident of Three Rock Cove, said she is in no way against progress, she is all about creating full-time and permanent positions to bring people back home, but she is not looking forward to having the beautiful landscape on the Peninsula changed.
“From my living room window, I can see wildlife grazing in the fields and a big, beautiful line of green trees as far as the eye can see on the ridge that separates our community from Lower Cove and Sheaves Cove. I’m not ready to give that up. There are plenty of areas that the turbines could be placed that would not interfere with local habitation. For instance, I believe that the Wreckhouse area would be a fantastic area to place turbines.”
Turrett said anything that can create jobs is a wonderful addition to the economy; however, she believes a project like this, like many that have taken place in Newfoundland and Labrador in the past, would be granted to out-of-province workers.
“The Muskrat Falls project was supposed to yield years of gainful employment for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador while in turn, giving the people cheaper power and energy rates. We all know how that went, so I will leave it at that! How do we know that the turbine project will yield full-time and permanent positions to our locals?”
Having grown up in Saint John, NB, Turrett spent every summer for 25 years coming home with her parents to the Port au Port Peninsula, and she fell in love with the area, permanently relocating herself when she was 25. She is afraid the beauty that draws many to the area will no longer be there with the installation of these turbines.
“The beauty of the Peninsula will no longer remain intact with thousands of acres of greenery being clear-cut to make way for massive white eyesores. And will they try and take over even more land in the future? What about the beautiful Loretto of Cape St. George? What happens to that area? So many questions and so little answers! I am not sure if we can stop this project, but many of us have made it clear we won’t go down without a fight.”
Stephenville Mayor Tom Rose has a different outlook on the wind farm project.
“I look at wind farms across this country. I’ve travelled from here to Alberta and, when I see wind farms and windmills, I don’t find them unsightly. I find there is beauty in them because it’s a clean, green technology and it’s innovation. It’s not putting emissions into the air like fossil fuels would. Fossil fuels do their part for the economy and I’m not knocking them, but I’m just saying this is innovative. It’s right across this country. It’s right across the globe. It’s where this industry is going.”
Rose said the region has seen many peaks and valleys when it comes to the local economy, which hasn’t seen a real boom in over 50 years.
“When a mom or a dad doesn’t have to go away to work, they don’t have to leave their family, their children and their loved ones, and they could possibly go to work here, go home every night to their own bed. That’s a lot to be said for the social impact of what a project like this means.”
Rose said he isn’t denying that there are negatives to wind turbines.
“There’s evidence that the wind turbines, at times, could kill some waterfowl, some birds, but airplanes kill birds. One animal preys against another, that kills the birds, but when we spoke to Mr. John Risley and his team – and John Risley is a man of substantial character – he chaired the nature conservancy of Canada, and when he spoke to us, he said, ‘We’ll create habitats away from these wind farms that will actually entice waterfowl’.”
Rose said this project is all about how you look at it.
“It’s unfortunate. Some people complain we don’t have good roads. Some people complain we don’t have enough doctors. Well let me tell you something. Without economy and without industry, you’re not going to have taxation and money at all levels of government so you can get better roads, so you can attract more doctors, so you can have a more robust airport.”