By Jaymie White
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
ST. JOHN’S – On Tuesday afternoon, July 26, Minister Andrew Parsons, Industry, Energy, and Technology (IET), and Minister Bernard Davis, Environment and Climate Change, provided an update on wind energy generation across the province. On April 5 the province first announced that the moratorium on wind development in Newfoundland and Labrador was lifted, and this latest announcement moves the province one step further in that process.
IET is launching a call for the submission of nominations of areas of interest for wind energy projects across the province, and any available Crown lands in the province are open for this purpose. All interested parties can provide any number of proposals, and each proposal has no limit on geographical size.
Submissions opened on the same day as the announcement, July 26, and will remain open until Oct. 1. Parsons said that while nominations are open, NL Hydro will be completing their wind integration study that will assess the amount of wind generation that can be supported by the electricity grid.
“These results will be shared with companies and made public to ensure proposed projects are technically viable before the call for land nomination closes.”
Parsons said he understands there will be a lot of questions moving forward, but they will continue to be transparent throughout the process, which will provide an opportunity to have ongoing constructive conversations.
“In late August we will be hosting a Crown land nomination information session to answer questions that interest companies may have. That’s not to say that we will not be available day-to-day as we have been for the past number of months.”
Parsons said his department has been working hard to understand the needs of a wind industry.
“Wind development in Newfoundland and Labrador provides us an opportunity for economic development and for job creation. We know the majority of jobs in this industry occur within the planning, development, and construction phase, but it’s also supplemented by jobs during operation and maintenance. The number of jobs depends on the projects that get approved through the process and this will be an important part of the bid criteria that is currently being developed.”
Parsons said they have to be sure residents of the province will have the necessary training for jobs in this renewable energy sector.
“Newfoundland and Labrador has some of the best wind resources in North America. My department has been engaged with a number of companies interested in exploring industrial development and we know they are anxious to get further information on the multi-stage process. As we work to develop the policies to allow wind development, we need to ensure a fair and transparent process while recognizing that this resource and these opportunities belong to the people of the province. We must ensure that any decisions we make are in the best interests of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, now and into the future.”
Following the assessment of nominations, the province will determine what land will be made available for the first round of the competitive land bid process. Parsons said the goal is for the next step, the call for bids, to be launched by mid-December.
Companies have already submitted a request for Crown lands for wind development but currently no applications have been approved. Parsons said the province is taking a timely approach and are trying to expedite it.
“We want to be first into this emerging market, or certainly near the top, but we also know that we have to get it right at the same time.”
Parsons said it is essential that they make sure all decisions made are in the best interest of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.
“I believe this step today is certainly a positive one. It’s laying the groundwork for a process that I think will be successful.”
A proposed project for the Port au Port Peninsula has had many residents voicing their concerns about the potential environmental and health impacts the wind turbines could cause.
Minister Davis said all proposed projects will undergo the province’s vigorous and comprehensive environmental assessment process.
“I am pleased to see the development of alternative energy sources in this province. The level of interest in our wind and hydrogen energy potential is indicative of the role we can play in the vital global transition to a green economy. Technologies such as these will be instrumental in ensuring a sustainable energy future. All proposed projects will undergo the province’s comprehensive and rigorous environmental assessment process, which includes an opportunity for the public and interested parties to provide feedback and comments before any decision is made.”