By Jaymie White
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
WEST COAST – On Friday, Aug. 5, Bernard Davis, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, announced that an environmental impact statement is required is required for the Port au Port-Stephenville Wind Power and Hydrogen Generation Project (Project Nujio’qonik GH2) proposed by World Energy GH2 Inc. and an environmental assessment committee has been appointed. Additional information is required, including the following:
• Confirmation of the final proposed wind turbine locations, worker accommodations, offices, explosive storage facilities, access roads, power lines and sub stations
• Identification of land use overlaps with protected areas, private lands, mining operations, mineral licenses and leases, and recreational and traditional land uses
• Potential effects on flora and fauna in the project area
• Confirmation of proposed primary and secondary water sources, and hydrological modelling to determine sustainability of yield, quality and effect on other local users
• Baseline geological information to support the planned storage / sequestration of chemicals produced throughout the project life, including CO2 and ammonia
The environmental assessment committee has been appointed in order to provide scientific and technical advice to the minister and to provide guidelines for the preparation of the environmental impact statement.
Stephenville Mayor Tom Rose said this is part of necessary due diligence on behalf of the government, but believes it is still important not to have any major delays because of the red tape.
“The big thing for me is that, as a country, as a province, we are stepping in to solve a world energy crisis. It’s been created, in a sense, from the war in the Ukraine, the dependency on the crude from Russia. So, if anything, I would be pushing to not let red tape slow us down. This is a green project. This is an energy crisis. This is being supported by the feds. This is G7. This is sovereignty. This is NATO. This is about countries working together. The only message I would give is do your due diligence, but don’t let red tape be red tape,” said Rose. “If there is any project that should be able to have a speedier approach, that would be a green project. There’s no question about it. But, because it’s such a large-scale project, that’s the decision of government.”
Rose said it isn’t just Canada jumping into green hydrogen projects and if things are slowed down too much the delays could have a significant impact. The requirement of an environmental impact statement will come as a relief to local residents who have raised concerns about the proposed project and the negative impacts it could have on residents on the Peninsula, as well as the environment and wildlife, but Rose believes the benefits far outweigh the pitfalls.
“With every industry there is the good, the bad, and the ugly. If you have a nuclear power plant, if you have an oil refinery, if you have a wind farm, it’s all in perspective, but if you were to pick one of three, we would pick the wind farms because it’s a green, non-emissions. It’s the safest type of industry we would want so our families, our citizens, and our communities can thrive both economically and socially. That’s so important.”
Rose said the pads for the wind turbines will take up less than five hectares, which is 12.5 acres, and that is a small footprint in comparison to the gypsum mine in Flat Bay or the mine at Lower Cove.
“To build a road into a site, we are building logging roads every day. All you have to do is drive from here to Corner Brook or Gallants to see what Kreuger is doing. They’re running logging roads, cutting down forests. They do that. But, outside of the roads, the footprint on this project is very, very small,” said Rose. “Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, we’re hunters, fishermen, berry pickers. We use wood roads for our recreation, for our getaways, for our snowmobiles, for our wood collection, so having infrastructure of roads going in, it will benefit the residents of Port au Port, the Highlands or the Stephenville area. I’m a huge supporter and proponent of this project.”
Rose said the location of these turbines is also extremely important, so the idea of moving them to a more central location would not be as profitable.
“You’ve got more capital costs building roads. You’ve got longer transmission, and then you’re going to take them from the best wind corridor, possibly in the world, at least in North America. The work has been done, the engineering has been done to say where they can go. Can they move a little bit? Absolutely. A little bit, but they can’t move away from the wind corridor.”
Rose spent time in several provinces during the summer, and said that everywhere he went, he saw wind farms.
“They’re clean, they’re white, they’re whisper-free, new-technology turbines. If you were to just stop for a minute in your home and listen, you are going to hear your refrigerator. It makes a noise, and if you are 100 metres from these turbines, they make the same sound as your refrigerator. If you’re further away, you don’t hear these turbines,” said Rose. “When you think of 124 turbines on the Peninsula, that large piece of geography, that large land mass, it’s not as if they’re all in one area. This is a great project for us and it’s going to put Stephenville, Port au Port, Bay St. George on the map. It’s going to give us economic stimulus. It’s going to keep families together, and it’s going to change the way we make a living and raise our families.”
Rose said that the jobs that will come to the area as a result will be high paying ones that will entice workers.
“We’re talking now, there’s direct jobs and there’s multiplier jobs. For the next five to seven years, we’re going to have 1,000 to 1,500 people working directly. That’s not the indirect jobs. They’re going to scale up. When the project is finished, you’re going to have a hydrogen plant that could employ as many as Abitibi Price did, up to 300 people, but then because this whole new industry has happened here and attracted additional industries, do you know how many permanent jobs are going to be here?”
Recent announcements have revealed that areas such as St. Georges and the Southwest Coast have also been approached by companies wishing to invest in green energy production in the province, and Rose called this fantastic news.
“There’s been a lot of work. There’s been millions spent, but it identified what we have. So, to do a multi-billion-dollar investment, we have all the checkboxes. We’ve got the location adjacency to Europe, the market. We’ve got international airports, international ports, one of the best weather records in the country, and the biggest checkbox, we’ve got the best wind,” said Rose. “The more that can happen in other places, St. Georges, Port Aux Basques, that’s going to benefit this town, Bay St. George, the Port au Port region, because we’re going to have economic sustainability happening.”
Atlas Salt has also made an announcement that stated the Fischell’s Brook salt deposit in the Bay St. George sub-basin exceeds expectations, something Rose believes will only serve to work well with the wind development project.
“It’s a massive salt deposit and I’m really hoping that starts to have investment coming forward and a business plan moving forward. That’s another significant job creation project. It also has benefits to green hydrogen because salt domes are non-permeable, so once the salt gets taken out, the caverns can actually be used to store hydrogen. It goes hand in hand and having that salt dome potential – it has to be mined first and it has to be sold – but if that happens it can be very beneficial to this hydrogen-wind project.”
Confirmation has also been made that important political figures will soon be making their way to Stephenville for discussions.
“The word is officially out there that there is a planned visit for the German Chancellor in Stephenville with the Prime Minister. The firm date and time is still not confirmed, but it’s potentially within a couple of weeks, It’s so exciting for me because it’s a world, international, head of state visit in Stephenville, Newfoundland. That has never happened at this level,” said Rose.