GNL RUSHING INTO ANOTHER “SCHEME”: CABOT MARTIN

The original concept for this piece was to compose an imaginary supplementary Briefing Note for German Chancellor Olaf Scholz re his recent visit to Newfoundland.

But as I dug in deeper, I decided that this wind mess was too sad for even a half way jocular approach.

Not that we should be insensitive to the need to help supply Germany with some energy relief in the face of the Russian aggression against the Ukraine (and thus against all of us in the West).

We really should do our best to help but we must take care as these wind projects will have serious environmental and possibly economic impacts.

I don’t know if the reader has had the chance to drive around the cliffy shoreline of the Port au Port Peninsula, but I have many times, and can assure you that it is spectacularly endowed by nature.

The proposed high density of turbines all over the relatively small peninsula cannot help but be highly disturbing to both humans and nature.

More over, World Energy GH2’s (GH2 from now on) crown lands application covers extensive areas far beyond the immediate footprint of the turbines themselves and the roads connecting them (see Fig 2-1 on page 24 at the link below). The area being applied for covers roughly 2/3 of the area of the entire peninsula !

Turbines only ; crown lands application covers much more

And amazingly, GH2 has said that, in order to be viable, they must also be given two other areas which include the iconic and ecologically sensitive wilderness areas in the Lewis Hills and Blomidon Mountains plus the wilderness of the Codroy Valley’s Anguille Mountains.

These guys are nuts !

Here is a map from GH2’s Registration Document – note that Site B takes in both the Lewis Hills and the Blomidons, straddling Serpentine Lake. And Site C encompasses the Codroy Valley’s Anguille Mountains .

Is nothing to be considered sacred?

Source : GH2 Environmental Assessment Registration Document
Appendix 1 at page 24

And GH2’s Area A, B and C approach is “project splitting” in the extreme.

Project splitting is where companies apply at first for part of an overall project to get their foot in the door, so they can later argue that a project expansion is “needed”, say, because of economics – and it is too late to turn back.  

As to the specifics of the Port au Port/wind to electricity /to hydrogen/to ammonia/ to Germany project, we are all at a distinct disadvantage, as we are forced to rely on GH2’s heavily promotional materials  – there are no independent sources.

Here’s a link to GH2’s Port au Port wind/ammonia project Registration document  – https://www.gov.nl.ca/ecc/projects/2202-2/

Doesn’t really comprehensively describe the impacts of even Phase 1 and has practically nothing on Phases 2 and 3. But is very specific about how they want a lot of crown land up front and how it’s rush, rush, rush or we will miss the bus.

Document proposes a seemingly unrealistic project construction schedule to reinforce the rush, rush, rush concept. Going to build two major chemical plants, build all kinds of other stuff and erect 164 huge turbines – a 1,000 megawatts no less – and all to be in operation in three years from now – give me a break.

But beyond the hype, buried deep in the document (Appendix F), we come to a discussion of how use of NL Hydro’s traditional generation and transmission system is key to GH2’s scheme.

Appendix F  to GH2’s Registration Document is entitled “Preliminary Island Isolated Customer Interconnection Mitigation Strategy”, what a mouthful.

At page F-1, it sets out a very important issue with regard to the project and because it has the potential to hit the longsuffering Newfoundland rate payer in the pocket yet again, I will trouble the reader with the following rather long quote from said Appendix F :    

“The Project requires an interconnection with the NL Hydro IIS for the exchange of excess wind energy to the IIS during the winter and supply of energy from the IIS during the summer. [emphasis added – IIS stands for NL Hydro’s on Island transmission system] The IIS has an installed generating capacity of approximately 2,000 MW. The system is a winter peaking system with light loads occurring during the summer months. Consequently, connecting both a 500 MW H2 Plant and a 1,000 MW onshore wind farm connected [sic] to the IIS is considered to be a significant undertaking given the relative grid and project sizes.”

End of quote

This is critical as we have no real surplus hydro on the Island having already pledged a big part of Bay d’espoir to Nova Scotia as part of the Muskrat Falls Project (that’s right, as I keep saying, no Muskrat Falls power flows to Nova Scotia, just low cost, highly reliabile power from Bay D’espoir- the agreement is littered with such give aways).

Summer is traditionally a time when generation is low as Hydro is filling it’s reservoirs for the winter – and that when GH2 wants power from Hydro as winds are low.

Now that’s a poor fit!

There is something unsaid going on here. So is it a case of – we destroy our wilderness and Emera gets our power at bargain basement prices – again.

And these problematic requirements are for Phase 1 alone – accommodating Phases 2 and 3 would seem to require us to turn NL Hydro into an electrical pretzel !

No solution is proposed in GH2’s Appendix F,  just that it needs to be studied –  and it needs to be done or we’ll miss the chance of a lifetime – right .

It is not unreasonable to ask how these system re-configurations by NL Hydro , all these buying and sellings of unwanted wind power, will impact rates paid by on-island consumers.

I must say that after the Muskrat Falls fiasco, I thought our government had finally learnt its lesson and would not to rush into another such scheme where calling it “green” was enough to suspend all critical analysis.

Or would abandon the basic principles of environmental assessment as practiced in North America since the early 1970’s in favour of a secretly devised and fuzzily delineated “MOU” approach that blurs all jurisdictional guardrails as the Premier “kicked around “ last week in Stephenville.

The key thing to remember is that environmental assessment is not just a set of regulations requiring the  collection of information but is fundamentally also a democratic process within which the public has a right to be informed and be involved – and to be taken seriously.

As I said, as to the elements of the currently proposed projects, I, indeed the whole Newfoundland public, are at a disadvantage. But a small group aren’t.

There was a recent article on the AllNewfoundlandLabrador News website that records in detail, a profoundly anti-democratic process that took place in late August, just before the German Chancellor and the Prime Minister signed their “historic” wind energy agreement in Stephenville.

In that meeting, a carefully selected group of politicians and industry types (most of whom were highly conflicted) met in secret at the College of the North Atlantic in Stephenville to map out the Province’s wind future.

Amazingly, the privatization of a massive amount of valuable crown lands was also discussed in detail, in clear anticipation of a land grab to come. Indeed, company representatives were already claiming to be “first in line” for particular areas – GH2 staking out a right to the Port au Port Peninsula without any legal basis.

It was as if all of the principles that Newfoundland had fought for in the 1970’s and 1980’s , and made considerable progress on, were to be  swept away.

Energy Minister Parsons, for his part, apparently supported a more measured approach than “First Come First Served” , an approach that presumably includes the Port au Port Peninsula as well.

In that case,  GH2 would not be “first in line”, but would have to win a bid for such lands as measured on technical and financial criteria like any other applicant.

I sincerely hope I have that part right.

All in all , we apparently have yet another example of  our tendency to base public policy on the short term profit motives of our business class.

But hopefully, this time things will turn out better. Maybe this time the worm will turn.

I confess, again, that I was , at first, one of those hopelessly snowed by the hoopla surrounding the  public announcement of the Muskrat Falls Project (reading about the Stephenville event was like having an unnerving flashback).

But back then I was too busy on personal matters to figure out Muskrat in detail – “broad strokes” seemed enough. And I was glad Quebec was being circumvented. And I was looking forward to the “prosperity “ the Muskrat project would surely bring.

Truth is — I was lazy; and I was stupid.

But I won’t be like that this time.

This is the Big One.

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