CEO says move part of a strategy to diversify local economy
Port of Argentia is hoping its strong southwest winds can convince an Alberta energy company to invest millions of dollars in the local economy.
On Monday, the organization announced the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Clem Geo-Energy Corp. and a partnership of companies to explore the potential to develop a 60-megawatt (MW) wind farm on Port of Argentia land. It would represent the largest wind farm in the province's history. Port of Argentia is responsible for managing the heavy industrial seaport at the site of a former American Naval Base.
Argentia is the construction site for Husky Energy's West White Rose concrete gravity structure, but its future has been murky since the company announced in September it was reviewing all plans for the offshore oil project. Work at the Argentia construction site came to a halt in mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic and a volatile global market for oil and gas.
According to Port of Argentia CEO Scott Penney, work to diversify the local economy has been a constant endeavour at the seaport.
"We have tremendous land mass with great characteristics to support wind generation and onshore wind projects," Penney told The Telegram. "We're meeting regularly, and we're going to continue to meet with proponents to explore the opportunities that present themselves here at our port. We're going to go where the puck is going to go. We can't stay stagnant.
"This work has been going on for months — prior to my arrival. The timing on it, from my perspective, is perfect, because of the impacts on the oil and gas industry. Now we're going to look to diversify and create some new jobs and look at the viability of what it can produce and really become an energy port."
Atlantic Canada wind energy
New Brunswick — 314 megawatts (MW) from 119 turbines
Newfoundland and Labrador — 55 MW from 27 turbines
Nova Scotia — 616 MW from 309 turbines
Prince Edward Island — 204 MW from 104 turbine
Source: Canadian Wind Energy Association (as of December 2019)
Headquarter in Calgary, Clem Geo and its partners have thus far supported the development of over 150 MW of utility-scale wind projects and, according to CEO Charlene Beckie, it has a further 123 MW of projects in development in Alberta.
"This is an excellent opportunity for us to look at doing some business in Newfoundland," Beckie told The Telegram, noting it's the company's first venture in Atlantic Canada.
The two-year MOU will examine the commercial feasibility of harnessing wind, storage and distribution of renewable energy.
"The global green-energy market is just growing substantially," Beckie said. "In your province, I know there's a lot of hydro power (from the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project), but embarking on other green-energy resources is excellent. We'll be looking for some local offtakers (purchasers of renewable energy) and potentially some international offtakers for the energy."
According to a news release, the project would benefit the provincial government's target of becoming a net-zero carbon emitter by 2050, with the potential to remove 35.4 tons of CO2 equivalent from the air annually. Initial estimates suggest the project would require a private investment of $135 million.
"For us, we're certainly not turning our back on oil and gas," Penney said, adding he wants projects like Husky's concrete gravity structure to remain part of the port's economic footprint. "But there's also other land that we can go and produce and be a viable site to support a shift to a greener and more sustainable energy-producing province, as part of a larger country and globe."
When it comes to wind power generation, Newfoundland and Labrador is lagging behind the rest of Atlantic Canada. According to the Canadian Wind Energy Association, out of 559 turbines installed in the Atlantic region as of December 2019, only 27 were in Newfoundland and Labrador. Elemental Energy owns the two commercial wind farms currently operating in the province, one in Fermeuse and another in St. Lawrence that it purchased from another company in March.
Work to assess Argentia's feasibility for a wind farm will get started later this fall. Beckie said her company will rely on subcontractors for on-the-ground work.