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West coast welcomes a future in wind energy

MHA Andrew Parsons (Burgeo – La Poile), Minister of Industry, Energy and Technology says there has been a lot of interest in wind energy development for the West coast and Southwest coast regions. – © File photo

By Jaymie L. White

Special to Wreckhouse Press

PORT AUX BASQUES – On Apr. 5, MHA Andrew Parsons (Burgeo – La Poile), and Minister of Industry, Energy and Technology (IET), read a statement in the House of Assembly to announce the lifting of the current moratorium on wind development, which has been in place since 2007. It was an announcement Parsons said creates an exciting opportunity for industrial customers to generate wind energy for their own consumption and wind generation for export.

The decision to place the moratorium on onshore wind development was made back in 2006/2007, leading up to Muskrat Falls.

“Part of the justification of the whole thing was that they wanted to have control of the grid, control of who was putting energy in, and they needed to make the case that Muskrat Falls was necessary and the least-cost option. As such, having people producing energy via wind was going to derail that.”

Parsons said the lifting of the moratorium serves as an official signaling of the province’s push towards a more sustainable, greener future.

“We’ve been having conversations on this topic for years, but we needed to signal to the broader industry and globally that we are moving in this direction. There’s still policy and legislative work that has to be done, but we don’t see that as taking a huge amount of time. The analogy I’ve been using is it’s like any business – you tell people in advance what you’re doing and what you’re opening and when it’s going to be open – and that allows people to start putting forward their plans and their ideas in parallel with that instead of just saying one day ‘we’re open for business,’ and waiting then for it to happen.”

Wind farms being put in place on the West coast of Newfoundland is something Parsons does envision for the future.

“I absolutely believe that is a very strong possibility and I can say that there has been a tremendous amount of interest, especially in the areas that would really be important to us, whether it’s in the Bay St. George area, Stephenville area, in the Codroy Valley and further Southwest. There’s a tremendous amount of interest on this side because of the resource, because of the ports. There’s a whole number of things that make it viable and desirable.”

Parsons said Newfoundland and Labrador is fortunate enough to have huge resources, both in renewable and non-renewable energy, when some places are lucky to have one. The minister does not believe that one should be developed at the expense of the other, and that both options remain viable.

“There’s a lot of capital out there right now, globally, looking for a place to invest, especially in this sector. There’s no one that has a better resource than us. We’ve got a very strong pro-business government, but at the same time we’ve got good regulatory standards, so we feel we’ve got everything that is going to please the market. We have a resource we want to capitalize on that, in turn, is going to supply green energy, but will also put money back in our treasury that will help provide the services that people need in this province.”

There are numerous ways in which wind energy might be developed in the province.

“There are different sides to it. It’s not just one thing. For instance, if we’re talking about setting up wind towers and wind farms, some people will be looking to invest in this for self-production, especially if you are a heavy industrial user like up in Labrador at the mines. There are some that are going to want to invest in terms of setting up to get into power purchase agreements to provide energy to the grid. Then there’s the third side, which is where people want to produce for the possibility of export.”

Wind energy is currently in production in three different jurisdictions in the province – Ramea, Saint Lawrence, and Fermeuse – who already have private outfits. And Parsons said Scotland currently is making more money from their offshore wind bids than they are from oil, which reveals why wind is the next evolution for this province.

“This is an opportunity to take another one of our under-capitalized resources and to, in turn, be able to market it, export it, and develop it. It’s absolutely going to have a positive effect on people whether or not they’re working, looking at the taxes that are generated, the possible profit on the sale of it. It has nothing to be but a positive upside to it that people will feel.”

The news about the lifting of the wind moratorium was very much welcomed by Mayor Brian Button.

“I think it’s a great thing to see this moratorium lifted. I’ve been elected since September and we’ve had conversations with different companies about wind power and the development of wind power, especially out in these regions, anywhere from Bay St. George out. There’s been various companies that have been talking, I would assume to both the councils all along this area, and we’ve had several chats, so seeing this moratorium being lifted, I know there’s quite a bit of interest and this seems to be a direction in which we’re looking at going, so I see this as positive news.”

Stephenville Mayor Tom Rose sees a lot of potential for the region.

“Canada is starting to follow the lead of a lot of European countries. The world is transitioning from carbon fuels to renewable energy, such as wind, and this province, we need to actually differentiate our ability when it comes to our power supply. We had Holyrood. We’ve got Muskrat Falls, and Muskrat Falls is not churning power yet. It’s not yielding power to this island yet. It’s not totally completed. But, they refer to hydroelectric as the dirtiest clean energy because it dams up rivers and there’s methane and stuff like that, so a very green energy is wind.”

Rose said the region of Stephenville, Port au Port, and Felix Cove, according to the Department of Environment, has the best wind DNA of any location in the province, solidifying why wind energy would be an important investment particularly for the region.

“Lifting the restriction on the onshore also really benefits Stephenville because we have a lot of infrastructure here. We’ve got a port, airport, so we’re the prime location for developing industry. What does industry need? Energy is one of the key things, and when you get an industry that can actually get their energy from a very green commodity such as wind turbines onshore, it actually creates a lot of benefits to that company of the products and services that they develop because it has a larger green impact and less of a carbon impact to produce something, because you use wind energy as opposed to nuclear power, coal, oil, and even hydroelectric.”

Rose said this decision spells only positive things for the province.

“Wind is key. We have it in spades in the Stephenville-Bay St. George region. It was music to my ears to hear this announcement by the province. I applaud them on moving forward with the green/renewable energy plan, and I see big benefits, and I see interest starting to happen in Stephenville-Bay St. George on that file and I think there’s good things to come.”

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