Published on March 19, 2014
Kirby Mercer, president and CEO of Beothuk Energy Inc., believes a proposed demonstration offshore wind farm in St. George‚Äôs Bay could happen in the short term, but there are still hurdles to clear. ‚ÄĒ Photo by Frank Gale/The Western Star
Published on March 19, 2014
A line of windmills could be located in St. George‚Äôs Bay if Beothuk Energy Inc. can move ahead with a proposed demonstration offshore wind farm. ‚ÄĒ Submitted photo
Published on March 19, 2014
A ship is seen positioning a windmill, depicting a plan proposed by Beothuk Energy Inc. to put a demonstration offshore wind farm in St. George‚Äôs Bay. ‚ÄĒ Submitted photo
For Beothuk Energy, the future is blowin‚Äô in the wind
Kirby Mercer can picture it: up to 30 wind turbines generating 180 megawatts of clean, green energy costing less than 10 cents per kilowatt-hour to produce.
The president and chief executive officer of Beothuk Energy Inc. has big plans for a demonstration offshore wind farm to be located in St. George‚Äôs Bay.
All the company needs is for everything to fall into place, including the regulatory approvals needed from the government.
Mercer says wind has emerged as the world‚Äôs most attractive solution to its energy challenges and offshore wind energy is proven technology, since winds blow harder and more consistently offshore, and it‚Äôs green energy with no major environmental impact.
Her said offshore means ‚Äúout of sight and out of mind,‚ÄĚ with no visual or noise pollution.
The project is expected to cost about $400 million, funded entirely through private investment, other than input from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) for an economic study.
According to online records, ACOA has provided a single, non-repayable contribution to Beothuk Energy of $50,000, towards a $67,000 ‚Äúeconomic analysis report.‚ÄĚ
Mercer said currently the shareholders are mostly Newfoundlanders, though Beothuk is an international green energy company headquartered in St. John‚Äôs.
‚ÄúWe‚Äôve already identified project financing, so with a purchase power agreement and a little bit of regional co-operation and political will, this could be made a reality for maximum benefit of western Newfoundland and the province,‚ÄĚ he said
The company is proposing to build the modules for the base of the structures in Corner Brook, with the proposed site for the manufacturing service port at Port Harmon in Stephenville. Mercer figures servicing windmills could provide up to 75 or more jobs in Stephenville.
Environmental assessment is required to establish a manufacturing facility. As of last fall, according to the provincial Department of Environment and Conservation, no proposal had been submitted to the government requesting approval for such a facility. At the time, the Department of Environment had yet to receive a proposal for an offshore demonstration wind farm.
Mercer said while the provincial government sometimes gets a bad rap for its energy policy, it can attract investment in Newfoundland and Labrador.
As an example, he said the deal in place between provincial energy power Nalcor and Nova Scotia‚Äôs Emera stipulates that Emera can purchase surplus energy from a third party, including wind energy.
That‚Äôs great for Beothuk, as the location the company is looking at for its wind farm is not far from Emera‚Äôs proposed electrical transmission line.
‚ÄúThe main message here is that because of things government has put into place, (government) has created a positive environment for this to move ahead,‚ÄĚ Mercer said.
The St. George‚Äôs Bay site was selected because it has shallow water depths of less than 50 metres, world-class winds, is outside major shipping lanes and away from bird migration routes, and is close to Corner Brook and Stephenville.
Beothuk has requested an investigative permit from the provincial government for the proposed location.
Asked whether he worries about opposition to the project, Mercer said Beothuk looks forward to working with interest groups and regulatory agencies to develop this new green industry.
Her said the intention is to make western Newfoundland and Labrador a North American centre of excellence for offshore wind manufacturing, staging and servicing.
Mercer was previously involved in oil and gas exploration in western Newfoundland, through Canadian Imperial Venture Corp.
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs an energy business,‚ÄĚ he said, when asked about the transition to offshore wind, adding he sees the potential in the untapped resource of offshore wind, just as teams of companies in Europe have recognized.
In North America, there has been slower uptake on offshore wind as an energy source. Projects that have progressed to date have done so slowly ‚ÄĒ with survivors close to development now having at least a decade of consultation and regulatory review behind them.
In the United States, seven offshore wind demonstration projects received support from the U.S. Department of Energy in 2012, totaling $168 million over six years. The projects include the Lake Erie Energy‚ÄąDevelopment Corp. (LEEDCo) plans to build five to nine wind turbines about 11 kilometres offshore off the coast of Cleveland, Ohio, and the Cape Wind project off Massachusetts, promising to be the first offshore wind farm in the U.S.
In Canada, a moratorium on offshore wind was installed in Ontario in 2011, remaining in place and stalling projects of several companies active in the Great Lakes. The moratorium has prompted lawsuits against the government, valued in the billions of dollars.
In British Columbia, Vancouver-based NaiKun Wind Energy has continued to progress its plans for an offshore wind farm in the Hecate Strait, with almost 400 megawatts of capacity from 110 turbines between the mainland, at Prince Rupert, and the archipelago of Haida Gwaii.
Official consultations for that project date back to 2003, though president Michael O‚ÄôConnor said he expects to reach development in the next two years.
Asked about Beothuk Energy‚Äôs planned wind project when it was initially announced in 2013 then natural resources Minister Tom‚ÄąMarshall said the company had briefed staff in his department prior to the announcement.
‚ÄúWe‚Äôll see what happens,‚ÄĚ he said, adding he was excited by the prospect of the new energy enterprise.