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World Energy GH2 refutes relocation rumours

MHA Tony Wakeham. – File photo

By Jaymie White Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

WEST COAST — Perhaps one of the most controversial projects to be announced on the province’s West Coast in 2022 was the planned wind development by World Energy GH2 on the Port au Port Peninsula. While the project is to be centered around energy development through zero-emission wind turbines constructed on the Peninsula, residents have repeatedly expressed some resistance to the project and what it will mean for households in the neighbouring communities.

MHA Tony Wakeham (Stephenville – Port au Port) said he has spoken with residents and has been working with them to find solutions.

“I’ve been working with the Local Service District in Mainland to address the concerns they’ve been expressing around the actual work that’s been undertaken and whether or not the company has followed their permit regulations and such,” said Wakeham. “I know there’s been a report recently prepared by a company from here on that whole site investigation piece in Mainland to address the concerns. I know Mainland has set up a meeting with the company to talk about issues around that.”

Wakeham said, as with any big project, it is important to ensure it is developed correctly.

“My big thing with this project is to make sure that, if this project is to proceed – ultimately government will decide on land applications in terms of Crown Land and the processes surrounding it – the government has the responsibility to ensure the company complies with the environment assessment guidelines that government lays out for this project. At the same time, the company has a responsibility to make sure they comply. Those are big things. The days of a company going in and doing whatever they want are gone. It has to be a very regulated industry and process and that’s where government has a responsibility to ensure that happens,” said Wakeham.

At the forefront are concerns surrounding environmental impact.

“Ultimately there is no doubt the project will have environmental impacts. The challenge is in minimizing those impacts, I’ve said that all along,” said Wakeham. “The other side of it is how does government ensure that the benefits of this project are shared in the local community because, if government is going to approve projects, there has to be benefits for Newfoundland and Labrador in it.”

Stephenville Mayor Tom Rose believes the positives that come with the wind development on the West coast will be worth it.

“Sometimes, as a human race, with our carbon footprint and the resources we’ve used, like oil and gas, that comes out of the ground, a natural product I guess, no different than anything else but it created emissions. But now the planet itself is going to take care of itself because now we’ve realized we can use wind to produce energy, to produce hydrogen, which has no emissions and it’s a way for, technically, the Earth to take care of itself.”

Some preparations have already begun on the Peninsula.

“They have started the environmental EIS work on the Peninsula. They’ve started putting up their wind towers on the Peninsula, so that piece of the project and site preparation at the port for the hydrogen plant is starting, so a lot of good projects have started there,” said Rose.

In response to email inquiries, representatives for World Energy GH2 shared the following.

“Crown Lands site access on the Port au Port Peninsula has been granted to World Energy GH2 to undertake environmental studies and wind measurement data collection. Environmental studies and wind measurement data collection are being undertaken to determine whether this project will proceed.”

Wind measurement studies “Contractors have been on site in the Port au Port area over the past 7-8 weeks preparing sites for wind measurement towers. Wind measurement equipment, including meteorological evaluation towers (MET), are being installed on Crown Lands. Onsite wind measurement data is being collected to supplement and verify desktop data. This data will help determine whether the project will proceed.

“One MET site is nearly complete. Work on three MET sites will continue in January and February 2023. A fifth site will be added in the new year, and the timeline for the fifth MET site work and installation is expected to be approximately 5-6 weeks.”

Environmental studies “Scientists have been on site conducting environmental studies throughout the latter part of 2022 and will continue throughout much of 2023. Botany, wildlife, bat, avifauna and water experts will continue to study the environment in the project areas as part of the Environmental Assessment process.”

World Energy GH2 said there have been a small group of vocal opponents to the project, but there is also a significant amount of support as well.

“Throughout the Environmental Assessment process in 2023, we will continue to engage with communities, share proposed plans, and gather feedback. The mapping plans are continuously evolving as new information becomes available. The environmental studies and wind measurement studies will offer important data that will help determine wind turbine placement.

“We will design, construct, and operate the project following applicable environmental regulations and guidance. There are thousands of wind turbines operating around the world. This global experience has helped the wind energy industry learn and evolve, developing approaches to reduce effects on wildlife and birds that have become standard practice and are required by regulators. These include turbine siting and design. A wide range of environmental studies, including botany, wildlife, bat, avifauna and water studies, will be conducted to determine the potential ways the project might interact with the local environment.”

Those opposed have also expressed concerns about the proximity of the wind turbines to their homes, and rumours have circulated that the number of turbines could increase to as many as 400, with relocation being a necessary possibility for many families. World Energy GH2 refuted those rumours.

“The closest a wind turbine will be to a residence is approximately 1 km.”

The project plan is for approximately 164 wind turbines.

“There are a great deal of rumours circulating about the project and they are unfounded. There are no plans for relocation.”

Overall, the company says the project continues to focus on positive effects for the environment and lowering the carbon footprint in the province and country.

“The world needs clean, green energy, and Newfoundland and Labrador has the natural resources and the skilled workers to build a world-class industry. Our province has the opportunity to be a leading global exporter of green hydrogen. We also have an opportunity to help manage a timely, effective energy transition, and to create opportunities for generations to come.

“World Energy GH2’s Project Nujio’qonik could be the first project in the country to produce hydrogen and ammonia from renewable wind energy, and will be one of the first projects of its scale in the world. Our project will serve as a catalyst for other green hydrogen projects in Atlantic Canada and beyond, and it is a project of which we will all be proud.

“The environmental benefits of this project are unlike anything we’ve ever seen in Atlantic Canada, with large-scale climate change mitigation helping make net-zero a reality. Along with the environmental benefits, the project will result in an economic boost in Newfoundland and Labrador, and will create meaningful, well-paying jobs on the province’s west coast. Young people will be able to stay in their communities to build their lives and careers, and families will be able to come home.”

On Dec. 15, the government of Newfoundland and Labrador announced that Bernard Davis, Minister of Environment and Climate Change approved the final guidelines for the preparation of the Environmental Impact Statement for the project.

“The minister has approved the final guidelines for the preparation of the environmental impact statement (EIS) for the Port au Port-Stephenville Wind Power and Hydrogen Generation Project (Project Nujio’qonik GH2). The EIS guidelines document identifies the information that the proponent will be required to address in the EIS. The EIS guidelines document is available on the Department of Environment and Climate Change website at:”

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