The West Coast portion of the map of the Crown land call for bids for wind energy projects, approximate area to remain in wind land reserve (Area 9, July 6, 2023). – Courtesy of Gov NL Jaymie White, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

On Thursday, July 6, the Department of Industry, Energy and Technology (IET) announced that nine of the proponents for the Crown land call for bids regarding wind and hydrogen development in the province would continue forward.

“We are pleased to have nine projects move forward to the Phase Two review. These projects have the potential to bring considerable investment and economic activity to our province. We will continue to review projects through the phase two process to finalize which ones move forward. We continue to be optimistic about the future of wind-hydrogen development in our province,” stated IET Minister Andrew Parsons.

In total, the department received 24 bids from 19 different companies. All of these bids went through the Stage One review criteria, which included, but was not limited to, the bidder’s experience and their financial abilities to plan, construct, and operate the project proposal they offered.

Included in the Stage Two review is a deeper dive into the nine successful bidders’ experience, the project proposal, the financing plan for the project, and a full examination of additional information regarding the electricity grid connection requirements, community and Indigenous engagement, and benefits for the province from the proposed project. Currently, it is anticipated that Stage Two will be completed no later than the end of Aug. 2023.

Any bidder who is successful after the Crown land call for bids process will be given exclusive rights to pursue the development of their project through the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador’s Crown land application and approval process, and the lands will be held in reserve until the process is completed.

“What has happened last week, basically, was the completion of Phase One of the process. What that means is we had nine companies, nine bids that got through the first aspect of the analysis, which was very much sort of a feasibility point of view. Now it goes into a more, even more, I guess, intense sort of process to see who will come out at the end of Phase Two, which we hope to have lunch by the end of August. We hope that it’s completed by then,” said Parsons.

“We had analysis done by our fairness advisor, consultant, department of finance, hydro, our department responsible for Crown Lands. There’s a lot of analysis done, so right now it doesn’t mean that anything has been approved. It just means we have nine proponents moving on to the next round.”

The anonymity of the proponents will be continue to be maintained until the entire process has been completed.

“When it’s all said and done, we will announce, obviously, the information for the successful proponents, which we don’t know how many there’s going to be. It could be as few as zero. It could be as many as nine. It comes down to which ones make sense,” said Parsons.

“We don’t have sort of a defined number of projects. We just want projects that will be successful, and when you look at the different criteria, we want them to have a number of positives to them.”

Environmental assessment registration is not required during this point of the process, but prior to final awarding of Crown lands, an environmental assessment will be required for wind projects over one megawatt.

The decision on whether or not to move forward with an environmental assessment prior to the approval of any project comes down to the proponents themselves.

“The environmental assessment process is only for projects that actually go ahead. Now, like any resource development, for instance, if you were trying to develop a mine, before you even get approval, you can start an environmental assessment. I believe at least one proponent, even prior to the completion of phase one, had registered for environmental assessment,” said Parsons.

“So that’s up to the companies. It’s one of those things where if you have sort of a more, I’ll say, ambitious timeline where you want to be constructed and producing sooner rather than later, some of those companies are taking a calculated risk and going into their environmental assessment. Now the environmental assessment doesn’t have any bearing on whether you will be successfully approved or not. Some companies are going ahead with it. Some companies will wait. That’s up to each one.”

Crown land locations after Stage One were listed on a generalized map, but it wouldn’t be possible to give more specific locations while maintaining the anonymity of the proponents.

“The best thing for me to say, without identifying any successful proponents that have gone on to Phase Two, is that when this was all said and started, there had been 3.6 million hectares of land that had been identified for nomination. When we put the bids out back in December, we had whittled that down to 1.8 million hectares as we move forward,” explained Parsons.

“In this case, there had been, I think, 24 projects and 19 proponents that had entered the process back in March. Whoever is not successful, their property will then be eliminated from contention. So what happens is, as you move forward, the only land that will be reserved is land that will actually be used. So we have to see what is when all is said and done.”

A recent survey conducted by the Codroy Valley and Area Development Association (CVADA) to the residents about wind development in the region estimated that 70 per cent of residents voted against it.

This is not the first time communities have come out against wind development, like on the Port au Port Peninsula regarding the World Energy GH2 development, but Parsons said public opinion is only one part of the very extensive process of development and would not put a halt to projects or force them to relocate.

There are no current plans for the government to conduct their own surveys in population centres near projected development sites to gauge public opinion.

“I wouldn’t say we’re going to do that specifically. Part of this whole process, there’s a number of ways to determine what the impacts will be, whether they be environmental or otherwise. What we’re interested in at this point is, as we move forward to consideration, we want to see what the impact is. But no. Do I think that a community will decide what the government does or does not do with Crown Land? Absolutely that is not the case. But does that mean that we do not want their input? Absolutely we want their input,” said Parsons.

“The bigger thing I’m interested in is a reasoned and sensible conversation on this type of situation. There are some people out there that absolutely, I think, have valid questions and concerns and want to have questions answered. There are some people, it doesn’t matter what I say, they are going to continue to be anti-development no matter what and for no other reason than ‘not in my backyard’. That contingent of people I’m not worried about. I’m interested in the people that are saying, look, we have concerns about what the effects might be. That’s valid. I would share that. So, yes, we need to look into that as we go forward and see what the impacts will be. But right now, (it’s) still early in the game. We don’t run on public opinion, we run on a number of other factors, public opinion is just one factor that’s taken into consideration.”

The province is also looking at offshore wind development, which still involves a number of steps.

“That’s absolutely going to happen. The reason we had moved forward with onshore as opposed to offshore was a couple of reasons. One, onshore was more economically feasible and ready to go. Offshore, the other big issue was that it’s a joint jurisdiction that’s with the federal government as well,” explained Parsons.

“What we’ve done though, is we’ve now signed an MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) with the federal government so that we can delineate or decide what lands fit under provincial jurisdiction and then what will be of joint jurisdiction and handled by the CNLOEB (Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board). So that’s something that’s in the works and it’s moving very soon. There are some proponents that had all along had their interest in offshore. We’ll see where that goes. It’s not a case of if in our perspective, it’s a case of when. So I can’t say when that timeline is going to be, but there is definitely interest, and that is definitely something that we would like to see happen.”

By Jaymie White, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Jul 17, 2023 at 06:00

This item reprinted with permission from    Wreckhouse Weekly News    Port aux Basques, Newfoundland
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