Tuesday’s high-profile signing of an agreement to sell Canadian-made hydrogen to Germany is intensifying the spotlight on a proposed wind-to-hydrogen development project in western Newfoundland.
World Energy GH2 has proposed a wind farm and green hydrogen plant on Newfoundland’s west coast that could provide some of the renewable energy Germany needs, but it hasn’t been approved yet and must undergo an environmental assessment before it gets the green light.
On the eve of the agreement’s signing – by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Stephenville, on Newfoundland’s west coast – World Energy chair John Risley says if the project’s wind turbines are not approved, the project will not go ahead.
“Newfoundland Hydro does not have the generating capacity to supply the hydrogen plant,” Risley said Monday.
The company proposes to build 164 wind turbines on the Port au Port Peninsula, which would generate one gigawatt of electricity, in its first phase, to power a 0.5-gigawatt hydrogen and ammonia production facility in the Stephenville area. If approved, the company says, it will be the first project in the country to produce hydrogen and ammonia from renewable wind energy.
The provincial government said Aug. 5 that the project must deliver an environmental impact statement that provides information about where the turbines will be located, and what their effect will be on animals, plants and waterways
The project has drawn criticism from some locals who are concerned about what the project’s environmental impact will be. Risley acknowledged there are environmental issues with wind farms but said the company aims to lessen them.
“The purpose of the environmental study that is underway as we speak is to identify where those impacts are the most likely to occur and what we can do to mitigate that impact. We don’t want to go in there and do all kinds of environmentally irresponsible things,” he said.
Risley says the agreement between Canada and Germany is important and signifies Canada’s support for its allies in Europe.
“This is, as I say, a national imperative and both governments would like to see this happen,” Risley said.
A long list of high-profile German business leaders will also be at Tuesday’s hydrogen trade show, with CEOs from Bayer, Siemens Energy, Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz, the Hamburg Port Authority and others visiting Stephenville for Tuesday’s signing.
As the war in Ukraine drags on and Russia cuts gas exports to Europe, Germany is searching for new energy sources to heat homes and power industry. Risley says that’s not the only thing people should be concerned about.
“There’s also another war about which we should be very conscious and that’s the war that the world is having with changing climate,” he said, citing extreme weather events like fires, drought and heat waves. “We do know that we are definitely losing the war against climate.”
Risley says his project will help by offsetting carbon emissions.
“This project will offset all the emissions from every single car, truck, ferry, lawnmower, snowmobile and four-by-four in Newfoundland and Labrador,” said Risley. “So every day that this project is not built, then that’s a day when all the emissions from all of the above continue to impact on the world’s climate.”
N.L. ‘perfectly placed’
Provincial Natural Resources Minister Andrew Parsons on Monday called Canada and Germany’s agreement symbolic. While he said he’s not aware of everything in the federal memorandum of understanding, he said he wants the German business leaders visiting to know the province is open for business.
“We have the best resource in the world, we have the best geography for this, we have a number of factors that come together … to put us at the forefront of this opportunity,” said Parsons.
Parsons said the provincial government has been fielding interest from about a dozen companies interested in developing wind power in Newfoundland and Labrador since lifting a ban on the generation and exportation of wind energy in April, which had been in place since 2007.
Newfoundland and Labrador is known for its offshore oil projects and reserves, and Parsons says wind and hydrogen production won’t eclipse that industry any time soon.
“But given the fact that we’re rich in multiple commodities, renewable and non-renewable, I think it bodes well for us as a province,” he said.
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