The potential for wind and solar power development in Newfoundland and Labrador became the focus of a forum on renewable energy opportunities, held Friday morning in St. John’s.
The forum was hosted by the Sierra Club of Canada and the Newfoundland and Labrador Environmental Network. It included a panel of three speakers: Fred Winsor of the Sierra Club of Canada; Gerry Skinner, owner of Newfound Energies and Neal Livingston, a documentary filmmaker and small-scale renewable energy developer based in Nova Scotia.
About 25 people attended, many posing questions to one or more of the panelists. Others submitted questions online, prompting further discussion during the approximately two-hour event.
Livingston noted he and about 20 friends have solar panels from a company based in Newfoundland and Labrador for their homes. He promoted energy alternatives — from single solar panels to more ambitious small-scale hydro — as a means of both creating employment in the energy sector and decreasing greenhouse gas emissions.
He suggested the move from provincial energy megaprojects to small-scale projects, tapping many sources, is comparable to the introduction of something like the telephone. It may seem unusual at first, but can lead to a societal change, he said.
“Who owns it is an important part of the discussion when you’re transitioning to renewables,” Livingston said, denouncing megaprojects, including the Lower Churchill development.
The point of varied ownership was similarly raised by Skinner, who is involved in a wind turbine project proposed for Kenmount Road in St. John’s and who, as The Telegram has reported, recently returned from China with an $18-million contract for his company to supply 1,200 wind towers — at a cost of $15,000 each — to Wipo, an international wind power company.
“It could never be said before that you could actually own your own utility power,” Skinner said.
He said, in his opinion, wind power projects are being welcomed in the province. Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro, he said, has offered to purchase excess power from the Kenmount Road wind turbine project.
Winsor, meanwhile, spoke about incentives for alternative energy developments and what feed-in tariff legislation might do for development of options like wind energy.
“In a place like Newfoundland and Labrador, I could see it as being quite revolutionary,” he said, pointing to Germany as an example where legislative changes have prompted development.
Audience member Jim Feehan challenged the comparisons to other countries and other Canadian jurisdictions. “Germany is great. But, correct me if I’m wrong, electricity rates in Germany are much higher than they are here,” he said.
He later explained for The Telegram he wanted to prompt a discussion of cost and reliability — the main points for everyday customers.
“I like the idea of wind, but people here need to be convinced,” he said.
For their part, the provincial government and Nalcor have said development of the Lower Churchill is top priority, with the island link allowing for greater development of larger wind power projects and other energy options.
Meanwhile, it was announced Friday Hatch Ltd. has been awarded a $158,000 contract for work on Phase 2 of its “Energy Innovation Roadmap.”
The first phase — with a
report released July 2011 (www.nr.gov.nl.ca/nr/publications/energy/#reports) — gathered responses to some basic questions around feasibility for a long list of alternative energy options.
Minister of Natural Resources Jerome Kennedy stated the roadmap will, “identify potential opportunities for further development, expansion, and diversification” in the provincial energy sector.