Wind power for sale: Energy company says N.L. should buy, stimulate west coast economy
Beothuk Energy meeting with province to discuss putting a wind farm in St. George's Bay
The Maritime Link connecting Newfoundland and Nova Scotia is getting closer to completion and a new wind energy player is trying to latch on.
Beothuk Energy is planning to build a wind farm in St. George's Bay, off the coast of Stephenville, close to the transmission project.
The company hopes Newfoundland and Labrador government officials will get on board with their proposal when the groups meet in the next couple of weeks.
Once the offshore wind project gets the go ahead, Beothuk Energy CEO Kirby Mercer says it will take five years to see first power.
"Nalcor, they have one shareholder and that's the Crown, which is us, so I think this becomes a political issue," said Mercer.
The project would have a large socioeconomic impact on Newfoundland's west coast, an area Mercer said needs an economic boost.
"I think it's going to be awful hard for the government to say no to this opportunity, because if we don't take it, it's going to happen somewhere else in Atlantic Canada."
Beothuk is also pursuing an offtake agreement with Nova Scotia's private utility, Emera, which is developing the Maritime Link with Nalcor.
The Liberal's campaigned on a five point platform which included diversifying the province's energy generation sources "for domestic use, for regional export and international export," according to Beothuk.
The company's wind farm would be scalable, but Mercer estimates it will likely have 26 turbines in total. The structures would sit in 25-metre water and generate 180 megawatts of energy, costing about 10 cents per kilowatt hour to produce.
"That's designed really to fit within the Newfoundland grid system and to be able to export via the Maritime Link," Mercer said.
"There's excess capacity on that link and we plan to fill it with offshore wind."
Muskrat vs. wind mills
Emera Inc. is slated to carry some of the electricity that will be generated from the Muskrat Falls megaproject once it goes online in Labrador.
Mercer said wind power produced by the St. George's Bay project wouldn't cut into Muskrat's market. It would instead act as another source of electricity.
"Even if we produce everything we have here at Muskrat Falls and Gull Island, we still wouldn't fit all the energy demands south of the border," he said.
"There's a huge marketplace."
The project is forecasted to cost $700 million.
During the manufacturing and installation phases, an estimated 600 direct jobs would be created. There would be about 100 jobs once the project was up and running.
Because of a downturn in the oil and gas sector, Mercer said now is the time to strike.
"You see it in Europe, people that were working in offshore oil and gas have moved to offshore wind," he said.
"Call it from blue collar to green collar."
Beothuk is working on six other wind energy sites in Atlantic Canada. The wind farm off Newfoundland's west coast has the potential to be the first offshore wind energy project in North America.
St. George's Bay offers the conditions that Beothuk Energy needs.
"We have world-class wind. We've got shallow water. We're close to the service port, close to a major airport," Mercer said.
"All the infrastructure that we'd need, we don't have to build that."
Mercer estimates those factors create hundreds of millions of dollars in savings.
Engineering contracts were recently awarded to further study the development of the wind energy project in St. George's Bay. Consultants will have access to established data sets and 67 years of wind data for analysis.