Wind-to-hydrogen projects still in play across Newfoundland, as list gets whittled to 9

Nine of 24 green hydrogen project bids in Newfoundland and Labrador have moved on to the second stage of the decision-making process.

Province to make final decision by end of August

Windmills on a barren, flat landscape.
Wind farms, such as this one near St. Lawrence, could soon be popping up around Newfoundland. The provincial government is one step away from deciding which companies can place windmills on Crown land across the island. (Dan Arsenault/CBC)

There are now nine companies with a chance to build green hydrogen projects on Crown land in Newfoundland and Labrador.

The Department of Industry, Energy and Technology announced Thursday it has whittled down the list from 24 proposals by 19 different companies.

The government is expecting to finish the second and final round of decisions by the end of August.

"I'm extremely thrilled that we've gotten to this stage and I appreciate a lot of hard work has gone into this," said Energy Minister Andrew Parsons. "It's a pretty significant step forward but there is still a lot of hard work to do."

While the department is not naming the companies, CBC News has been able to verify eight of the nine and where their plans are located. They are:

  • Pattern Energy at the Port of Argentia.
  • Brookfield Renewable Partners in Placentia Bay.
  • ABO Wind in Come By Chance.
  • North Atlantic in Come By Chance.
  • Everwind Fuels on the Burin Peninsula.
  • Exploits Valley Renewable Corporation in central Newfoundland.
  • World Energy GH2 on the southwest coast of Newfoundland.
  • Fortescue Future Industries on the southwest coast of Newfoundland.

Marystown mayor elated

With Everwind Fuels moving on to the next round, the vast majority of the Burin Peninsula is still in play. That's great news for Marystown Mayor Brian Keating.

"The whole peninsula is abuzz today," Keating said Friday. "I've had over 100 calls already from other mayors and people on the energy advisory board saying, 'Woohoo.'"

portrait style photo of marystown mayor brian keating.
Marystown Mayor Brian Keating says the Burin Peninsula is buzzing. (Terry Roberts/CBC)

The company has plans for more than two gigawatts of wind energy, along with the potential to build wind farms offshore. If approved, it's expected to break ground next year and employ as many as 5,000 people during construction.

Keating said the company has done everything he's wanted to see, and more.

"Newfoundland has been asking for companies like this for years," he said. "They came, they asked our opinion, they gave us the information on what they were going to do before they did it."

The projects could be a lifeline for the Burin Peninsula, which Keating said is going through a lull right now. It's a familiar refrain for many of the regions that could see hydrogen projects.

What comes next?

The regulatory process doesn't end with Thursday's announcement.

While the first phase looked at the proponents' experience and financial capacity to build and operate these massive projects, the second phase will look deeper into those criteria and examine the proponents' reliance on the electrical grid, how they plan to engage the communities around them and how their projects will benefit the province.

The lands in question will be held in reserve until the process is finished.

"I'm not prejudging anything," Parsons said on Thursday. "We could have nine. We could have zero."

A man with medium length brown hair and a short brown beard, speaking at a microphone. He's wearing a white collared shirt and a black blazer.
Energy Minister Andrew Parsons says he isn't prejudging the situation. (Patrick Butler/Radio-Canada)

Companies with wind generation over one megawatt will have to go through an environmental assessment and the companies themselves will have to make a final investment decision once all approvals are in place.

Parsons said it has been important to balance due diligence with a speedy approach, since there is a race to market in this emerging sector. The minister had hoped to be further ahead by now, but said it was important to be thorough.

"We're still behind where I wanted to be, but again, we weren't going to sacrifice scrutiny for the sake of getting things done quick."

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With files from Terry Roberts