Why is Newfoundland and Labrador such an attractive place for wind energy and hydrogen development?

While the moratorium on wind was only recently lifted in this province, wind energy is used in jurisdictions across Canada and around the world.  It is a proven, sustainable and clean energy source. Our geography, natural resources and, of course, wind makes Newfoundland and Labrador a prime location for new large-scale wind developments.

As we know from experience, our wind is ever present and powerful. For context, the U.S. Energy Administration states that for utility-scale turbines, 5.8 metres per second (m/s) [20.8 km/h] is a good annual average and a 2016 report placed the annual average wind speeds for high potential areas in Newfoundland and Labrador at 9.18 m/s [33 km/h]. 

For wind turbine use, our wind would generate power over 40% of the time, compared with about 30% of the time in most other North American jurisdictions. 

Further, 88% of land in the province is unpopulated Crown land which has the potential for wind development.

Using renewable wind energy to produce hydrogen makes it a green energy source. Our province also has a significant availability of freshwater available which is preferred for hydrogen development. In fact, Newfoundland and Labrador has the second highest freshwater runoff in Canada. 

We are well positioned as the most easterly jurisdiction in North America which puts us closer to the markets of Europe and provides great access to other areas as well. Our 29,000 kilometres of marine coastline along international shipping lanes, many of which are adjacent to deep, ice-free ports, provides us with a distinct advantage. 

When you combine the above factors with our skilled labour and decades of expertise in the energy sector, Newfoundland and Labrador is ready to take advantage of the opportunity before us.

How will my community, my family, or my company benefit from these projects?

Opportunities in the renewable energy sector are many and range from construction to maintenance, and operations to supply and service. While each project will be different, the people of Newfoundland and Labrador stand to receive significant benefits from the wind to hydrogen projects which will likely be negotiated through benefits plans.

Energy NL feels strongly that local people and local companies should be the primary beneficiaries of these projects from jobs to opportunities in the supply and service sector. We believe development proponents and the provincial government hold the same belief and we will continue our advocacy to ensure this occurs.

Again, while each individual project is different in terms of size, scale, location, and equipment used, potential benefits could include:

  • construction jobs for wind projects (i.e., site preparation and turbine installation)
  • jobs in site maintenance and service
  • hydrogen facility jobs (construction & operations)
  • indirect and induced jobs related to a project such as supply and service

For example one project is currently projecting the following jobs as a result of their project development:

  • 1,800 direct construction
  • 300 operations
  • 3,500 indirect

There will also be benefits to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador through revenue generated by the provincial government and/or municipal governments. This may occur through fees associated with the purchase of Crown land and/or the use of municipal water services, or other means.*  Residents will benefit through the availability of revenue for public services such as health care, education, transportation, municipal infrastructure, etc.

*Potential revenue structures remain under consideration as the provincial government moves forward with the development process.

How do these developments help combat climate change?

Wind energy is a clean, renewable energy source. Newfoundland and Labrador projects will be using wind power to create green hydrogen. Hydrogen is considered green when it is produced using a renewable energy source like wind.

An at-scale, clean hydrogen economy is a strategic priority for Canada as it looks to diversify our future energy mix and reach our net zero greenhouse gas emission targets. Globally, our clean energy will be used to help other countries reduce their greenhouse emissions and provide cleaner energy for industries like steel manufacturing.

Are water supplies at risk?

Projects will be required to avoid protected watershed areas and will use industrial water supplies. Provincial regulations also require all project proponents to have environmental management systems in place, including water analysis, environmental protection plans, risk mitigation strategies and contingency plans.

A hydrogen plant using fresh water will use about 1.72 million litres of water per electrolyzer if it is running for 24 hours to produce 180 megawatts of hydrogen. For context, an Olympic size swimming pool contains 2.5 million litres of water.

How much land use does a typical wind turbine require?

Land use will depend on the particular details of the project.

For a general example:

  • Required area for installation is two hectares (approximately five acres) per wind turbine
  • Required area for operation is 0.8 hectares (approximately two acres) per wind turbine (6MW) and includes access roads and substations

Source: sciencing.com

What will happen to areas frequented for berry picking, hunting, hiking, and other recreational activities?

Wind turbines have been present throughout the world for some time and have coexisted with human activities since their beginning.

Project proponents will work with communities to develop common use agreements so areas used for these purposes remain accessible. Again, it is important to keep in mind that wind turbines are present throughout the world and have been for some time, coexisting with human activities.

During construction, access to active construction areas may need to be restricted to protect public safety, though, when construction is over, restrictions will be removed around turbines.

Hunting regulations regarding proximity to industrial installations will be in effect.

There will be fences where required for public safety, such as at electrical substations, but generally, fences will not be in place around turbines or access roads.

Each project is likely to have a specific approach, one that follows best practices of the global industry and provincial regulations.

Are wind turbines hazardous to birds and bats?

Research has found that bird fatalities due to wind turbines are much lower than those from collisions with windows, vehicles, or towers, or from habitat loss due to many other forms of development. Studies suggest that less than 0.2% of the population of any bird species is affected by mortality or displacement from wind turbine development.

How will wind turbines affect bats and other wildlife?

Projects will be designed, constructed, and operated following applicable environmental regulations and guidance. There are thousands of wind turbines operating around the world. This global experience has helped the wind energy industry learn and evolve, developing approaches to reduce effects on wildlife, bats, and birds that have become standard practice and are required by regulators. These include turbine siting and design.

A wide range of environmental studies will be conducted to determine the potential ways projects might interact with local environments. Environmental management plans, including mitigation for potential effects on wildlife, bats, and birds, will need to incorporate guidance and requirements gained through the environmental assessment process, and through ongoing conversations with government regulators.

What about other endangered species or plant life?

The environmental assessment processes used to approve wind turbines is rigorous and dedicates significant effort to protect wildlife and plant life, including at risk or endangered species. All developers will be required to follow the recommendations of the environmental assessment process, as well as any other law or regulation which is in place to protect wildlife and plant life.

As well, proponents will implement best practices derived from international experience of turbine operation which will also help protect wildlife and plant life.

Are there risks to people, wildlife or the environment from ice throw?

Ice can be detected on wind turbine monitoring systems. De-icing of the turbine blades prior to operation eliminates risks of ice-throw and limits production losses. De-icing is available in two variations:

  • Passive systems: Using ice-resistant coatings or paint
  • Active systems: Using thermal pads, or internal circulation of heated air for de-icing

How could shadow flicker affect surrounding areas?

Shadow flicker is a visual effect caused when the sun casts a shadow of rotating wind turbine blades across a structure. Shadow flicker is a rare occurrence because the sun has to be at a precise position and angle in the sky for the shadow of the rotating blades to hit a particular structure for a limited number of minutes per day, as the sun rises or sets. If this is an issue in a particular location, turbines can simply be shut off for those brief periods, thereby eliminating any possibility of shadow flicker.

Source: energyfollower.com

Will noise from the turbines interrupt my way of life?

Depending on the project – and provincial regulations – turbines will be placed at least 500m from residences. At 500 metres, a turbine generates approximately the same level of noise as a well-functioning refrigerator.

Will turbines cause light pollution?

Some turbines may have blinking lights near the top to enhance their visibility, especially for aircraft. For those turbines, transponder-based aircraft detection lighting systems (ADLS) offer a solution and ensure blinking lights are only active when needed for aircraft safety. 

When ADLS is in place, a database can store the coordinates of the wind farms that require aircraft obstruction lighting. The system can track aircraft from the ground level to aircraft flight altitudes, automatically issuing signals to activate obstruction lighting when aircraft are detected. The aircraft can be tracked from takeoff to landing and geofence service around the turbines can switch the lights on and off at a defined outer perimeter, according to federal regulations. 

As well, the lights near the tops of the turbines can be synchronized so all lights blink at the same time, reducing the flash time from multiple turbines. 

Will hydrogen be produced by renewable energy projects in this province? How safe is hydrogen production?

Hydrogen is the most abundant, and simplest, element in the universe and offers two to three times more energy than any fuel in use today. However, on Earth, hydrogen is rarely found in its natural state and must be extracted or reformed, which can be done in a variety of ways, such as using water and electricity (electrolysis) to produce green hydrogen.

Hydrogen has been used for decades and stringent safety regulations and protocols have been developed. The Hydrogen Industry Panel on Codes, the International Code Council, and the National Fire Protection Association collaborate to ensure stringent safety protocols for hydrogen. As well, continuous research and development is taking place, led by organizations such as the Centre for Hydrogen Safety, as the industry moves forward with this energy source.

How will the hydrogen be used? Why is exporting hydrogen occurring?

Our world is facing a challenging situation of global energy supply. Around the world, nations are evaluating their energy suppliers and energy sources. Newfoundland and Labrador has the opportunity to be a leading global jurisdiction to supply renewable energy and to be leading global citizens.

A domestic supply of green hydrogen could be negotiated with the provincial government. In terms of exporting green hydrogen / ammonia, it will be used for steel manufacturing, powering vehicles, fertilizer, and sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), etc.

Will ammonia be used during the energy conversion process? Is ammonia safe?

Many of the wind-hydrogen facilities proposed for Newfoundland and Labrador will produce hydrogen from electricity generated by wind power. Hydrogen is easier to ship and store when it is converted into ammonia which is why ammonia may be the final state of the energy product produced here.

Ammonia is a carbon-free fuel that is used around the world as it is stable and easy to transport.  Ammonia is typically used in refrigeration and ice rinks, though about 90% of the ammonia produced today is used for fertilizer. It can also be used as a fuel or as a power and heating source.

Ammonia is a commonly shipped good with 20 megatons per year typically shipped globally and in 2020 there were 120 ports with ammonia trading facilities.

Newfoundland and Labrador has extensive experience in the safe handling, storage, and shipping of energy products, such as crude oil, and this experience, combined with regulations and protocols will ensure the safe handling, storage, and transportation of ammonia.