A St. John’s, N.L., company wants to build a giant wind farm off the coast of Yarmouth to supply power to New England.
Beothuk Energy Inc. unveiled its plan for the $4-billion project Monday. The 120-turbine venture would be built in shallow water about 20 kilometres off the coast.
Beothuk president and CEO Kirby Mercer said the offshore wind farm would be a boost to the local economy, even though its power would be exported to the Boston area via subsea cable. A 200-kilometre line, dubbed the Can-Am Link, is part of the project.
“We’re close to Nova Scotia for servicing,” Mercer said in an interview. “But we’re putting a direct link into New England. It makes economic sense for that size of a wind farm.”
The Beothuk CEO wouldn’t say exactly where the 1,000-megawatt wind farm would be located. The turbines would sit on a gravity base in water depths of less than 30 metres, he said.
More details on the venture will be released in the new year, Mercer added.
If the venture gets off the ground, the project would be one of Canada’s first offshore wind farms. Beothuk is also working on a 180-megawatt offshore project near Stephenville, N.L.
The two projects are part of the Newfoundland company’s long-term plan to construct five offshore wind farms in Atlantic Canada, the CEO said.
Yarmouth Mayor Pam Mood called the project “exciting,” referring to possible job benefits. She didn’t have many details about the plan but said she’s looking forward to hearing more about it.
“One of the most important factors from my seat is that the company has promised to consult with stakeholders,” Mood said.
“That would, of course, include the fishery as this entire region relies heavily on that industry, and they are certainly a major stakeholder.”
The Energy Department became aware of the project in late fall, a spokeswoman said. Beothuk representatives were in Halifax on Monday and met with provincial government officials.
“It’s an interesting proposal and we’ll watch with interest to see how it progresses,” Sarah Levy MacLeod said.
She said the project is still in the early stages and would need an environmental review before it were approved. That process includes consulting with the community and other stakeholders, the spokeswoman said.
Mercer said the first phase of the wind farm would take four to five years to complete. That part of the project would be 300 to 400 megawatts, he added.
“It would come on in stages, with such a large project,” he said.
Beothuk has applied for the federal permit needed to do site evaluation and wind studies over the next year, the CEO said.
Besides regulatory approvals, another hurdle for the project is finding buyers for the green power. Mercer said the company is talking to several potential U.S. customers about signing a power purchase agreement.
Several energy developers in the region are working on new transmission projects to tap into the growing renewable power market south of the border, including Emera Inc., Nova Scotia Power’s parent company.
Both of Beothuk’s proposed wind farms would be privately funded, Mercer said. But Emera or Nalcor Energy, the Newfoundland and Labrador Crown-owned utility, could become a customer, he added.
The 30-turbine Newfoundland wind farm could be used by either of those companies to provide additional green energy to Nova Scotia under their regional joint venture, the CEO said.
Emera and Nalcor are partners on the $6.9-billion Muskrat Falls hydro project in Labrador.
Mercer said offshore wind farms are also being planned in New England to help the region meet its legislated renewable energy targets.
A similar venture proposed in British Columbia failed to get off the ground about five years ago.
NaiKun Wind Energy Group had planned to build Canada’s first offshore wind farm. But the 110-turbine project in northwestern B.C. faced local opposition from native groups.
The 396-megawatt venture also failed to get a long-term contract with BC Hydro.
Mercer said some of Beothuk’s partners have built other offshore wind farms in Europe. The private company’s partners include Toronto-based investment firm Jacob Capital Management and German conglomerate Siemens Offshore Wind.
Fellow St. John’s firm Talon Energy, which does work in the oil and gas sector in Newfoundland and Alberta, and Maderra Engineering are also part of the venture.
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