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Yarmouth wind energy project on backburner

St. John’s-based Beothuk Energy’s proposed $4-billion offshore wind energy development for the southern tip of Nova Scotia is on the backburner two years after it was unveiled.

It was supposed to be a boon for Yarmouth’s economy.

A 200-km undersea high-voltage transmission line, dubbed the Can-Am Link, was to connect the 1,000-megawatt energy project to the Boston area. Wind turbines on gravity bases were to sit in water no deeper than 30 metres.

The first phase, expected to produce 300-400 megawatts of electricity, was to come online in four to five years. The number of jobs to be created would have been close to 1,000 for that phase alone.

In late December, 2015, Mayor Pam Mood called the project “exciting.”

But now, halfway through the projected schedule to get the first phase of the project up and running, a Beothuk Energy partner is saying the mega-wind farm off the southern tip of Nova Scotia is no longer a top priority.

“You cannot work on six projects at the same time,” said Lars Thaaning Pedersen, co-chief executive officer of Copenhagen Offshore Partners, in an interview. “It costs too much and this Yarmouth project is not the highest priority.”

Kirby Mercer, chief executive officer for Beothuk Energy, did not reply to repeated requests for an interview about this massive proposed wind energy development.

His company and Denmark-based Copenhagen Offshore Partners are currently working on developing a 180-megawatt wind energy project off the coast of Newfoundland. Mercer has reportedly said he wants to go back and live in his home province of Newfoundland again.

The St. George’s Bay energy project is estimated to cost up to $800 million, all of which is to be financed by Copenhagen Offshore Partners which is planning to take an equity stake in the project.

“We will be providing the development capital and the construction capital,” said Pedersen.

The go-ahead for the financing and construction of that offshore wind energy project, though, will depend on the two companies being able to ink long-term deals for the sale of that electricity.

In a speech to a Rotary Club in late July, Mercer reportedly said his on-going negotiations with the government, utilities and potential customers for energy have to lead to something substantially close to a deal by the end of this year.

“We have to have a commitment of some sort, or an indication this will happen in the province by the end of the year, or this project could go somewhere else,” Mercer has reportedly said.

The St. George’s Bay offshore wind energy project could create up to 2,000 jobs.

But even if the St. George’s Bay project goes sideways, there is no guarantee that the proposed wind energy project off the coast of Yarmouth will be Copenhagen Offshore Partners’ next priority.

According to Pedersen, there are six such projects in the pipeline. And Copenhagen Offshore Partners is also gunning for a slice of the Massachusetts energy market.

In the past year, that state has issued its Massachusetts Clean Energy request for proposals to get the companies that distribute electricity there to provide 1,600 megawatts of wind energy by 2027.

It’s under that request for proposals that Nova Scotia-based energy giant Emera has offered to carry 1,000 megawatts of electricity on a roughly 563-km high-voltage energy corridor which has yet to be built from New Brunswick to Massachusetts.

Emera subsidiary Clean Power Northeast Development is handling this Atlantic Link project which is to be supplied with electricity from seven as-yet-to-be-built wind farms, including two in Nova Scotia and five in New Brunswick.

But Massachusetts is also expected to issue another request for proposals in December, this one for up to 800 megawatts of offshore wind energy.

Although Beothuk Energy is not expected to be involved in any of those proposals, its financial backer, Copenhagen Offshore Partners, is very interested in providing Massachusetts with that offshore wind energy. The company has set up an office in Boston and is working with another partner there for that proposal.

While a demand for offshore wind energy for Massachusetts might sound like something that could trigger the construction of a wind farm off the southern tip of Nova Scotia, it won’t.

The reason for that is simple: the offshore wind energy being sought by Massachusetts has to be produced in the United States.