Residents of the Port au Port Peninsula are concerned about possible environmental and regional impacts of a proposed giant wind farm, so much so that they’re hounding the company behind the mega project for answers.
World Energy GH2 – made up of four partnering companies – wants to build 164 wind turbines on the peninsula, located in western Newfoundland, and use the energy produced there to make green hydrogen and ammonia in a plant in nearby Stephenville.
If the mega project is approved, 2,500 jobs, including 100 permanent jobs, come with it. But the 200-metre high turbines would also transform the landscape of the area.
“Our major problem is that we don’t know exactly what is going on, and what is a safe distance for these windmills to be from the shorelines and also from habitation,” Peter Fenwick, owner of Inn at the Cape in Cape St. George, explained in an interview with CBC News on Monday.
“Until we get some information on that, it’s extremely difficult to say that this is a kind of project that we’d be interested in supporting.”
He estimates that one of the turbines would be about a kilometre from his property, but said it’s difficult to know exactly where that may be right now. He’s fearful the wind project will have a negative impact on his business.
“If it’s anywhere in a position where it actually produces any kind of noises or vibrations that our guests can feel at the inn, it would be extremely harmful to our business,” he said.
“On that basis, we really have to know where it is and whether or not it’s a threat to what we’re doing.”
‘We want to hear what they have to say’
The World Energy GH2 plan was made public just only days ago as part of the project’s environmental assessment.
At the request of municipalities in the region, representatives of World Energy GH2 will meet residents of two towns, Cape St. George and Lourdes, on Wednesday.
Members of several local service districts, which do not have an official city council, will also be there.
“We just want to hear their side of it. We want to hear what they have to say first. We are not for or against wind turbines, we just want to hear the reasoning behind putting the turbines at Cape St. George,” said Stella Cornect, mayor of the community.
Cornect said the meeting is being kept small in order to keep the focus on getting answers.
“You can’t have a big general meeting right at this time because we feel, and the company feels, you’re not going to accomplish anything by having hundreds of people,” she said.
World Energy GH2 will also meet with representatives of Stephenville on Wednesday where the hydrogen and ammonia plant would be located.
Progressive Conservative MHA for Stephenville-Port au Port, Tony Wakeham, questions the speed at which the Liberal government is assessing the environmental impacts of the proposed project.
“What I find peculiar about this is the rush of time to have this project approved by. When this environmental assessment registration goes out in the later part of June, with a deadline for comment by July 27 in the middle of summer, the middle of Come Home Year and the minister of environment has to make a decision by Aug. 5, I’m questioning why such a short timeline and why the rush,” Wakeham told CBC News.
“When you’re proposing something that will definitely change the landscape on the Port au Port Peninsula then you need time for people to be able to fully understand what this means.”
While some residents are impatiently awaiting explanations from the company, others are already opposed to the project.
“It’s going to be ruining acres and acres,” said Travis Young, a homeowner in Sheaves Cove, a local service district on the peninsula.
He fears repercussions to animals and vegetation, and believes there will be mass destruction.
Fenwick added that most of the permanent jobs created by the project would be linked to the factory in Stephenville, 10 kilometres west of the peninsula.
“Basically we get the round end of the stick and they get all the benefits and on that basis we really want to talk to the company,” he said.
Open to collaboration
World Energy GH2 – a consortium that includes the firms CFFI Ventures, World Energy, Horizon Maritime and DOB Academy – said it launched a series of consultations on May 13, when it organized meetings with the municipal councils of the region.
It also met with representatives of the Qalipu and Miawpukek First Nations, as well as the band councils in the area.
“We are anxious to hear the concerns raised by local residents and to work together to address them,” a spokesperson told CBC News, adding that the project aims to bring value, employment, local business activity and financial benefits to the province and to position the region as one of the best renewable energy sites in the world.
Young points out that local service districts learned about the development of the project from the media and so far have not participated in any consultations conducted by World Energy GH2.
“It’s as if we are less important because we are not a city,” he said.
Mainland, another local service district on the peninsula, held its own public meeting Monday night to discuss the project.
With files from Patrick Butler
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