World Energy GH2 outlines project during livestream event, but doubts remain
By Jaymie White
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
WEST COAST – On July 6, a meeting held in Cape St. George and live streamed on Facebook focused on the proposed wind turbine project being constructed on the Port au Port Peninsula.
This meeting provided an opportunity for information sharing between World Energy GH2 Inc. and the residents of the peninsula with the hope of bringing more understanding and support for the project.
John Risley, a director with World Energy GH2, outlined the proposal to build 160 turbines on the peninsula, over the objections of some residents concerned about the long-term environmental impact. The proposal includes a facility to convert hydrogen into ammonia.
“The reason you do that is because hydrogen is not a dense energy source and you have to convert it to ammonia in order to ship it economically. It’s a very simple process to do that, and you then store the ammonia until you’ve got a boatload. You put it on the boat and ship it to whatever market you’ve sold it to.”
Thus far, there has only been one application put to the provincial government, which is for the first phase.
“The first phase of the project is 164 wind turbines on the Port au Port Peninsula and the hydrogen plant, and the minute that they’ve have got their arms on that, then we’ve got an application which we are going to submit for the other two sites – the Lewis Hills site and the Flat Bay Site, which would be similar in size to the site on the Port au Port Peninsula.”
Wind farms are not new. There are thousands around the world and hundreds more under construction; however, combining them with a hydrogen plant is new.
“Hydrogen is a commodity that has been around for a long time, but green hydrogen has not been and the reason it has not been is because of cost. It costs a lot more money to produce green hydrogen than it does conventionally. Hydrogen using the SMR and natural gas, it costs almost three times as much.”
A preliminary environmental review has been submitted to the government for a permit, but it will have conditions. Risley said that the company hopes, with the appropriate permitting in place, to begin construction in late spring or early summer 2023.
“We would also begin construction of the hydrogen plant in the port at the same time. Our hope would be that by the end of 2024, we would have the very first hydrogen on the market. And then the construction plan over all three phases, over the three-year construction plan, the construction activity would finish here (on the Peninsula) and migrate to the other two sites.”
Following the presentation, there was a question-and-answer portion where residents were able to get answers to a lot of the questions that have been plaguing them since the initial proposal guidelines were released to the public.
Samantha Turrett, resident of Three Rock Cove on the Port au Port Peninsula, said she was surprised they held a meeting so quickly.
“They sent someone who has their hands on this project instead of someone sent with pamphlets. However, he came ready to defend himself, the project and the company at any cost. To me it was a meeting to make it ‘look good’ where they dropped this project on our doorstep so to speak. It was so abrupt.”
Turrett said she did appreciate some of the information that was presented.
“I do hope that they will work with us on the positioning of the turbines if we are unhappy. I, myself, am not against this project. One can only hope employment will rise and perhaps spiral into creating a better health and education sector in our area, more restaurants, stores, resources et cetera. However, someone like myself is simply asking why it cannot be moved to an uninhabited location. Risley’s response of, ‘the wind is very favourable,’ did make me chuckle. As if the wind blows differently on the Peninsula. I still chuckle. I had the impression that he may believe we are impressionable and uneducated, gullible even.”
Turrett said she had once been completely against this project, but this meeting has opened her up to learning more about it and moving it elsewhere on the island, away from people’s homes.
“With that being said, I believe in a gut instinct. It’s never led me astray so far in my near 34 years and something doesn’t sit right with me.”
Turrett hopes that there will be more open communication about the proposed project with the company backing it from now on.
“We can’t handle anything being dropped on us again. We are slowly getting our small communities back to life after COVID. I volunteer in our community centre and it’s taking time to be able to get things alive at our centre, but we are getting there. Just when we started building courage, we get knocked over again with the issues of turbines in our back yards. We deserve to know what is going on and the right to say yay or nay to the project here. I would also like to have a meeting with environmentalists from abroad regarding the long term effects of these turbines. I’ve been researching papers from the mainland – mostly Nova Scotia and Ontario – and I am not liking what I am reading.”
According to a wind turbine noise and health study completed by Health Canada, it was found that self-reported sleep disturbances, illnesses, increased stress, and decreased quality of life were not found to be associated with wind turbine noise exposure.
However, annoyance toward several wind turbine features such as noise, shadow flicker, blinking lights, and vibrations were found to be associated with increasing levels of wind turbine noise.
In addition, Nature Canada stated wind turbines kill approximately 8.2 birds per turbine per year and, as of 2017, Canada had 6950 turbines installed which would equate to approximately 54,038 bird deaths annually. Birds are not the only wildlife that could be negatively affected by the installation of wind turbines.
In the proposed environmental work plan submitted to the provincial government by World Energy GH2 Inc., they discussed how operating wind farms are known to have potential negative effects on bats. This effects include direct and indirect habitat loss, through visual and noise impacts, as well as potential deaths due to collision with the turbines.
The environmental work plan, while identifying potential risks, also highlights ways in which they will combat the effect of the turbines on the environment through methods such as surveys and assessments.
Andrew Parsons, Minister of Industry, Energy, and Technology, said projects such as this one need financial investments that smaller communities would be unable to afford themselves.
“There’s nothing that precludes any community from being involved, and in fact, I think communities have a role to play as partners in these developments, and that’s the right way to do it, but I think that the capital requirements needed to fund these, in many cases hundreds of millions of dollars or multi-billion dollar projects, is something that most municipalities in this province simply cannot afford.”
Parsons said Newfoundland and Labrador doesn’t have the greatest track record with mega projects in the past.
“Whether it’s Churchill, it’s not costing us money, but we’re missing out on a vast portion of the revenue. Or you take Muskrat (Falls) where the government bankrolled it, and look where we are now. It’s affecting everything we do. So if we’ve got private partners that wish to come in here, where the province plays a role is in terms of royalties, in terms of resource development, in terms of jobs and GDP contribution,” said Parsons. “As long as we remember that the resource belongs to us, and that the people of the province that should get the benefit, I think this is absolutely an area where private investment is necessary.”
Parsons said the reality is that this is the direction of the future all around the world, not just in this province.
“There are quickly becoming markets for it and we have literally among the best resource in the world. It’s like anything. I absolutely think it is an opportunity we cannot waste because other provinces and countries are going to quickly jump in and fill that need but, like with anything we do, we need to be cognizant that we have to set up a system that is safe, sustainable, and recognizes the financial realities we live in.”