Opinions on Port au Port wind farm development vary as environment minister’s decision draws near

CORNER BROOK, N.L. — With the minister of Environment and Climate Change’s decision imminent on an environmental assessment for a proposed Port au Port Peninsula wind farm, two groups are still trying to get answers to the questions and concerns people in the area have.

World Energy GH2 plans to construct and operate a maximum one gigawatt (GW), 164-turbine onshore wind farm on the peninsula. Project Nujio’qonik will include associated transmission and supporting infrastructure to power a 0.5-GW hydrogen/ammonia production facility in the Port of Stephenville.

The Port au Port Regional Wind Turbine Committee and the Environmental Transparency Committee were both formed in response to the proposed project.

The Environmental Transparency Committee hosted a public meeting on the project in Sheaves Cove on Aug. 1 that was attended by about 60 people.

Marilyn Rowe is the chairperson of the Sheaves Cove Local Service District and a member of both groups.

When it comes to information about the project, Rowe said it is in short supply.

“There’s a lot of people who don’t know what this project is all about.”

Her community only received notification of the project from the Department of Environment and Climate Change on July 8. The deadline to comment on the environmental assessment process was July 27.

“That gave us 18 days to respond. It wasn’t fair.”

The Environment minister’s decision on the project is due on Aug. 5.

Rowe said her community is against the project.

“We don’t believe in destroying a beautiful forest in the name of green energy. Our forests are green, our mountains are pristine, they’re beautiful.”

Rowe said residents are concerned about the effect the project could have on the environment and on the health of the people living near it. They also wonder what it will do to area roads and how people will get back and forth to Stephenville if big turbines are blocking the road during construction. They also have concerns about the environmental impacts of the wind turbine blades at the end of their lifespan.

“The speed at which this project is being pushed through the government is a big red flag for me and for a lot of residents. It’s just been moving too fast,” she said.


A post shared on social media by the Port au Port Regional Wind Turbine Committee. - Contributed - Contributed
A post shared on social media by the Port au Port Regional Wind Turbine Committee. – Contributed – Contributed

 

Ontario trip

On July 25, Nova Scotia billionaire John Risley, a director with World Energy GH2, took a group of about 10 people to visit the Grand Renewable Wind facility in Haldimand County, Ontario. The Grand Renewable Wind facility is a joint venture between Pattern Canada, Samsung Renewable Energy and Six Nations of the Grand River Development Corporation. Pattern is listed as an interested partner in World Energy GH2’s environmental assessment registration document.

Rowe was supposed to take part in the trip but was unable to attend.

Jasen Benwah, of Cape St. George, chief of the Benoit First Nation and ward councillor for Port au Port with the Qalipu First Nation, did go to look for any issues and concerns.

He said he didn’t find any.


A windmill located on farmland in Haldimand County in Ontario. – Contributed - Contributed
A windmill located on farmland in Haldimand County in Ontario. – Contributed – Contributed

 

One thing that stuck with Benwah was that in the last five years the mayor of the Ontario community told his guests he had not received one windmill farm complaint.

“He attributes that to Pattern Energy … because whenever there is an issue Pattern deals with it so quick that it never comes on his desk as a complaint.”

Benwah said when the wind farm was first proposed the people around it had all the same concerns as those on the Port au Port Peninsula when it came to health, flickering, noise and mess.

He said there are differences in the setup in Ontario to what is being proposed here. The windmills are closer to people’s homes and are located on private farmland. Pattern pays the farmers a royalty but for the farmer it is otherwise business as usual.

“To me, I saw a town that was very organized, very neat. And you know there’s cell towers, electrical lines and there’s windmills and nobody gives anything another thought.”

As for the Port au Port project, Benwah said the windmills themselves were never a concern to him.


“It’s like a cellphone, it’s like a television, it’s like a car — the newer versions are better than the old versions. These things are quiet, they’re neat, they’re organized.”
— Jasen Benwah


“It’s like a cellphone, it’s like a television, it’s like a car — the newer versions are better than the old versions. These things are quiet, they’re neat, they’re organized.”

His only concern from the start and one he still has is the construction of the road infrastructure to build the wind farm. The company has said once the roads are in it will work to reclaim areas that were damaged and plant trees and berries.

“If it’s going to happen, we’re going to have to hold them to it,” said Benwah.

“It’s not me or anybody who is going to stop this … but I think we need to hold them to every promise that they make, every rule they have to follow, we had to hold them. Every concern, we have to hold them, and we have to mitigate everything so that everybody is OK, everybody is happy.”


A simulation what the wind farm proposed by World Energy GH2 would look like in an area on the Port au Port Peninsula. – World Energy GH2 - Contributed
A simulation what the wind farm proposed by World Energy GH2 would look like in an area on the Port au Port Peninsula. – World Energy GH2 – Contributed

 

Another view

Krystal Vardy made the trip as a representative of the Port au Port Regional Wind Turbine Committee.

In her report on the visit, she said the wind tech tour guide took them to within 150 metres of a turbine. She could hear it but described the sound at that distance as comparable to a washing machine and to a lawn mower directly underneath.

Vardy also noted there are differences with what is in place in Ontario and what is planned for here.

Her only disappointment with the trip was that they did not get to speak to more residents of the community, as the one present owned the land that the company was building on.

Vardy feels that those who took part in the trip remained as objective as possible and were not vocal about their support or opposition to the project.


A map showing the sites for a wind farm in World Energy GH2’s proposed project to construct a wind farm and hydrogen/ammonia production facility in the Stephenville-Port au Port area. – World Energy GH2 - Contributed
A map showing the sites for a wind farm in World Energy GH2’s proposed project to construct a wind farm and hydrogen/ammonia production facility in the Stephenville-Port au Port area. – World Energy GH2 – Contributed

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