Atlantic Canada: wind, hydrogen and the folks working to realize the potential
Posted on February 02, 2023 | By Brian Mclaughlin | 0 Comments
Savvy entrepreneurs are busy transforming Atlantic Canada’s abundant wind and water resources into a green energy powerhouse.
Faced with a global energy security crisis and environmental challenges to achieve Net Zero—not to mention aggressive carbon-reduction targets—several Atlantic Canada companies and pioneers in both existing renewable wind generation systems and aspiring Hydrogen green energy projects are channelling an ancient Chinese proverb: “When the winds of change blow, some people build walls and others build windmills.”
In New Brunswick, NB Power has been partnering with wind farm generation companies for over one-and-a-half-decades. Accordingly, there are seven wind energy project partnerships in place. One of the earliest such partnerships was between TransAlta Corporation (TransAlta) and NB Power, dating back to 2007.
That’s when a 25-year power purchase agreement (PPA) for 96 megawatts (MW) of wind power between TransAlta and the province’s crown-energy corporation for the Kent Hills Wind Farm was signed. To provide that power, TransAlta constructed a 96 MW wind power facility in southeastern New Brunswick in Albert County. The facility began commercial operation in December 2008, becoming New Brunswick’s first wind farm. Since 2013, the facility has been owned and operated by TransAlta Renewables, a subsidiary of TransAlta.
For electricity produced at the Kent Hills Wind Farm to connect to NB Power’s electrical grid, a new 28.5 km transmission line that runs from the facility to the Salisbury terminal was constructed. In January 2009, another 25-year PPA contract was inked for 54 MW with TransAlta. As part of this agreement, TransAlta constructed an additional 18 wind turbines. In 2018, the facility added another 17.3 MW of capacity with the addition of five more wind turbines.
Last year, NB Power and TransAlta Renewables extended their PPAs for a 10-year period to December 2045. Both parties agreed to work in good faith to evaluate installation of a battery energy storage system at Kent Hills and to consider a potential repowering of Kent Hills at the end of the facility’s life in 2045.
“Our extended partnership with New Brunswick Power reflects our commitment to our customers and maintains our reputation as a supplier of choice for clean electricity,” said Todd Stack, president of TransAlta Renewables.
TransAlta is an award-winning company whose honours include an industry leader score of A- from the Carbon Disclosure Project (now known as CDP) in 2020, 2021 and 2022. They’ve also been recognized with a Gavel Award for Best Disclosure of Corporate Governance from the Canadian Coalition for Good Governance. And they’ve been a bronze-level member of the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business since 2020 and are the first publicly-traded energy company to be certified by Diversio.
TransAlta’s portfolio consists of 76 energy assets, ranging from wind, hydro, solar, natural gas and cogeneration, generating an impressive 7,400 MW of electricity, making it a diverse energy sector and renewables leader, capable of delivering great returns for energy investments with low-cost, clean, and reliable electricity and natural gas and services.
Our extended partnership with New Brunswick Power reflects our commitment to our customers and maintains our reputation as a supplier of choice for clean electricity.
—Todd Stack, President, TransAlta Renewables
Two hours drive southwest of Kent Hills, you’ll find Burchill Wind Project, a venture owned and operated by Natural Forces. They have a 25-year PPA with the local municipal-owned and operated utility company, Saint John Energy (SJE).
“Our partner, Natural Forces, built, financed and will operate the Burchill Wind Project,” said the utility company’s president and CEO, Ryan Mitchell. Featuring 10 turbines, it will provide 42MW of power, and supply 15 per cent of Saint John’s energy, which will be purchased by SJE at a set price. It’s expected to come online in the near future.
“It’s anticipated the Burchill Wind Project will save 43,680 tonnes in CO2 emissions per year, which is equivalent to taking 13,382 cars off the road,” Mitchell explained. It’s the province’s newest wind farm, located 15 km from Saint John, in Lorneville. The site was chosen due to the industrial nature of the area, its elevation and because of optimal wind speeds originating near the Bay of Fundy.
Burchill is the first utility-scale wind farm in Saint John’s history. SJE’s CEO applauds the community partnership underpinning the wind energy development project. Natural Forces partnered with Neqotkuk, formerly known as Tobique First Nation, for Burchill. “We’re very proud of working with them to bring this historic project to life.”
Mitchell also sits on the Atlantic Hydrogen Alliance’s (AHA) executive committee, making SJE the first electric company in the region to have a seat on the important regional H2 energy alliance. The AHA was created to support development of an economically viable clean hydrogen value chain enabling the transition to a prosperous low-carbon economy in Atlantic Canada.
For (Wiskolamson), we partnered with the Woodstock First Nation, who is a fantastic partner. And Chief Paul and their council are doing tremendous things throughout their community, and in New Brunswick.
—Rory Cantwell, CEO, SWEB Development
SWEB Development, a leader in wind farm renewable energy generation, has its regional headquarters in Nova Scotia. They are the North American subsidiary of W.E.B, an Austrian community-owned energy transition company, with approximately 600 MW of renewable energy across Europe and North America.
SWEB’s Atlantic Canada projects represent a significant chunk of the parent company’s global renewable energy generation. They operate approximately 100 MW of wind and solar projects across Atlantic Canada and the US northeast, with another 95 MW in late-stage development in Nova Scotia, and approximately 3,500 MW of projects in earlier stage development throughout North America.
Rory Cantwell is CEO of SWEB’s Halifax operations. He’s particularly proud of the 13 wind farm projects the company has in full operation across Nova Scotia as well as the Wisokolamson Project, completed in 2019 in New Brunswick.
The Wisokolamson Energy Project was developed through a partnership with Woodstock First Nation as part of a provincial initiative led by NB Power. The project name is derived from Woodstock First Nation’s traditional language of Maliseet; Wisokolamson translates to “the wind blows strongly”. This 18 MW project consists of five Vestas V126, 3.6 MW turbines.
Community engagement is a corporate priority, Cantwell explained, because prioritizing it ensures SWEB can “integrate local feedback as best possible in our project design.” It enables his team to better ascertain labour, services and support available from local businesses and communities. “For (Wiskolamson), we partnered with the Woodstock First Nation, who is a fantastic partner. And Chief Paul and their council are doing tremendous things throughout their community, and in New Brunswick.”
Recently, SWEB Development and Glooscap First Nation were selected under Nova Scotia Rate Base Procurement Request for Proposals (RBP RFP) and will have access to a $25-million federal/provincial grant from the Smart Renewables and Electrification Pathways Program for their planned wind farm. The Weavers Mountain Wind Energy Project, a 94.4 MW project, located southwest of the town of Antigonish in Pictou County, is one of five projects awarded under the solicitation.
Wind farms have been increasingly popping up throughout N.B. and N.S. as more clean energy economic development initiatives come online. Cantwell said he welcomes the competition: “With a problem as big as climate change, we need as many resources as possible across the industry to solve it.”
Green hydrogen is obtained by electrolysis of water, powered by renewable energy. That means it generates no (atmospheric) polluting emissions. It’s the cleanest, most sustainable hydrogen.
As one of the top 10 global hydrogen producers, Canada is a leader in innovative hydrogen and fuel cell technologies. But can regional hydrogen projects scale rapidly enough to meet urgent global demand? According to Pattern Energy’s c-suite leadership, the answer is an unequivocal yes.
Frank Davis, assistant vice president, Pattern Energy Group LP, is the senior representative for Pattern Energy in Canada. He said: “The business case for making hydrogen through the electrolysis process using Newfoundland’s wind resource is very compelling.” He noted that “wind data” from studies of their Port of Argentia site affirms the region’s wind capacity is sufficient to produce continuous, variable force to power wind generation turbines required for hydrogen projects.
“The capacity factor associated with wind in Newfoundland—the percentage of time on the calendar that we believe we’ll be producing wind energy—throughout the productive capacity of the project, is far higher in Newfoundland than most places in the Western Hemisphere.”
The business case for Newfoundland and Labrador is indeed strong: abundant and readily available fresh water; decades of success in the energy sector; abundant land for scalable and industrial construction of wind turbines and proposed construction of a state-of-the-art green ammonia production facility on Port property; ice-free marine port infrastructure in close proximity to supply Germany’s and the EU’s demand for secure and continuous imports of clean energy, and green ammonia; a highly skilled and capable work force; and Memorial University’s superior engineering school assets and resources.
Davis explained this type of clean energy project “is generational” in terms of driving economic development.
Last summer, the Port of Argentia announced it signed an Option to Lease Agreement with Pattern Energy Group LP. Pattern Energy will determine the commercial feasibility of wind energy and green hydrogen production at the Port and undertake development activities for construction of wind turbines, a hydrogen electrolysis plant and storage facility, and related green fuels infrastructure on Port lands.
During that announcement, Port CEO Scott Penney stated: “The Port stands on the cutting edge of the transition to renewable energy and this project will lay the foundation for future development of Argentia as a green port.”
Immediate global demand for green ammonia is huge. “Currently there’s an active existing ammonia trade that’s suffering from the volatility in natural gas,” Davis said. He contends green ammonia offers an ideal low-cost (stable price), clean, carbon-free alternative to natural gas’ “grey hydrogen”.
He also explained that since global demand for green ammonia is industrial scale and significant, it provides immediate growth opportunities for multi-regional hydrogen projects from across Atlantic Canada.
If a hydrogen project is deemed feasible for the Port of Argentia, Davis feels hydrogen wind generation infrastructure can be well positioned to be “a first or early moving project”—in keeping with the Memorandum of Understanding negotiated by Canada and Germany, which is aiming for hydrogen exports from Canada by 2025.
The capacity factor associated with wind in Newfoundland—the percentage of time on the calendar that we believe we’ll be producing wind energy—throughout the productive capacity of the project, is far higher in Newfoundland than most places in the Western Hemisphere.
—Frank Davis, Ass’t VP, Pattern Energy Group LP
EverWind Fuels LLC is a developer of green hydrogen and ammonia production, storage facilities, and associated transportation assets. EverWind Fuels’ c-suite team is eager to advance two innovative H2 and green ammonia ventures past the finish line.
Trent Vichie, CEO for EverWind Fuels, points to Atlantic Canada’s successful backstory as “an energy powerhouse and center of incredible ocean innovation spanning decades” as dependable evidence for advancing 21st century hydrogen projects and clean ammonia production in the region. “Atlantic Canada offers a perfect geographic position to harness wind power and be a first mover to global markets. Our region has an ‘open for business’ attitude.” Adding: “we can collaboratively work with governments to get things moving to meet increasing demands of the European clean energy marketplace.”
First up at the starting and operational gate will be EverWind’s Point Tupper hydrogen project site, near Port Hawkesbury, Nova Scotia, on the Strait of Canso—an area proffering a world class wind resource.
The largest deepwater transshipment terminal in North America, Point Tupper terminal—a fully permitted marine terminal, with $600 million-plus of existing assets—provides EverWind a significant head start at developing the first industrial-scale green hydrogen project in Canada.
In phase one, EverWind’s Point Tupper facility will produce green hydrogen and green ammonia from 350MW of green power produced by third-party onshore wind farms, generating electrons through Point Tupper on Nova Scotia Power’s transmission system. EverWind is currently developing a two Gigawatt onshore wind farm that’ll produce green power for the project’s second phase. Per annum, both phases are expected to produce 1 million tonnes of green ammonia.
Community engagement is baked into their ambitious H2 strategy: for the Nova Scotia venture. EverWind is partnering with three Mi’kmaw communities: Paqtnkek (Bayside Corporation), Membertou and Potlotek.
Phase one of EverWinds’ Point Tupper Green Hydrogen and Ammonia Project Environmental Assessment is already registered with Nova Scotia’s Environment and Climate Change department. And their plans for a proposed project on Newfoundland’s Burin Peninsula are also advancing. EverWind just submitted a comprehensive application under the Department of Industry, Energy and Technology (IET) Crown Land Call for Bids process for Wind Energy Projects. And Vichie attests: “EverWind has already engaged extensively with diverse stakeholders at community levels there.”
This project—Canada’s first commercial green hydrogen facility—is first-of-its-kind, bringing together global leaders who are committed to reducing carbon emissions and providing the scale necessary to expand the reach of decarbonization efforts throughout the world.
—Sean Leet, Managing director and CEO, World Energy GH2
Meanwhile, World Energy GH2 is poised to produce green hydrogen for global markets as early as 2025. The renewable energy company has officially launched a CAD$16-billion project to produce 250,000 metric tons of green hydrogen annually from a new facility powered by wind turbines on Newfoundland’s west coast and in Labrador. It’s also underpinned by the recent Canada and Germany MOU to supply Germany with the carbon-free fuel, signaling the birth of a burgeoning green industry across Canada.
According to Sean Leet, managing director and CEO of World Energy GH2: “This project—Canada’s first commercial green hydrogen facility—is first-of-its-kind, bringing together global leaders who are committed to reducing carbon emissions and providing the scale necessary to expand the reach of decarbonization efforts throughout the world.” The project’s wind farms will supply three Gigawatts of wind power to a green hydrogen manufacturing plant.
Utilizing Newfoundland and Labrador’s wind energy to produce hydrogen through electrolysis, World Energy GH2 will employ renewable power to produce green hydrogen, which can be used as an immediate solution to decarbonize hard-to-abate sectors.
Aspirations for the World Energy GH2 project are also local. Leet states the entire process “needs to be inclusive and consultative, and the benefits for communities need to be clear. It’s crucial that the project—and the industry—provide value to communities in Newfoundland and Labrador and positions our province and Canada as global leaders in green energy.” Consistent with that, Project Nujio’qonik (Mi’kmaw meaning “where the sand blows”) involves an MOU with Qalipu First Nation and the Town of Stephenville. Project Nujio’qonik will be Canada’s first commercial green hydrogen/ammonia producer created from three+ Gigawatts of wind energy in one of the world’s greatest wind resource regions.
World Energy GH2 recently established a $10-million Community Vibrancy Fund for Project Nujio’qonik’s three current areas in Newfoundland and Labrador: the Town of Stephenville, the Port au Port Peninsula and the Three Rivers/Flat Bay/Codroy Valley area, pending project approval. Paid over three-years, the fund will be equally divided across project areas.
As the world transitions to sustainable energy, North Atlantic Group of Companies (NARL Marketing and NARL Logistics) is not just transitioning along with it—they’re leaders in the race towards a cleaner, greener future.
Jaime Beach, NARL Logistics’ CEO, feels Newfoundland and Labrador is poised to be a global leader. He said: “We are strategically aligned to support that process.”
The North Atlantic Group of Companies (North Atlantic) have plans to build a new green energy hub in Placentia Bay near the NARL Logistics Storage and Marine Terminal in the Town of Come-By-Chance. The project entails developing wind turbines on the isthmus of the Avalon Peninsula, providing a renewable energy source to produce green hydrogen and green ammonia for global customers. The isthmus area is well suited for it, delivering some of the strongest and most consistent wind speeds across Canada. NARL’s marketing’s president Ted Lomond explained: “We will see 200MW to 300MW of initial power generation grow to in excess of 600MW.”
Converting the existing refinery to a renewable diesel and sustainable aviation fuel facility is crucial, according to North Atlantic’s leadership. In association with and under new ownership through Braya Renewable Fuels, it provides Come-By-Chance with strategic advantages. And through clustering and direct market access, it will leverage critical assets and unique synergies to deliver further success.
Said Beach: “A green energy hub that makes use of these existing assets and resources will create significant opportunity for investment and economic development.” Beach and Lomond predict a three-year timeline for obtaining all approvals and permits required to force wind into the spinnakers of the innovative green energy center. Added Lomond: “The world is in transition, and we’re not waiting for change to happen.”
A green energy hub that makes use of these existing assets and resources will create significant opportunity for investment and economic development.
—Jaime Beach, CEO, NARL Logistics
Aspin Kemp & Associates Energy Systems is a David-sized renew-able energy systems player in a potentially Goliathan-sized arena of hydrogen project aspirants. But that doesn’t frighten this innovative energy company from putting its stake in the game of renewable hydrogen clean energy generation and green ammonia production for the region.
According to CEO Jason Aspin, “We’re very familiar with being David against Goliaths when we take on our large international projects.” It’s a competitive battle his company never turns and runs from. “It’s a large playing field and we feel strongly there’s a niche for AKA and an important role to play in the hydrogen space alongside other successful companies.”
“For the local market, AKA is well positioned to be leaders in this industry given our global experience in microgrid-type technology developed initially for the marine industry and then adapted for land-based applications,” said Aspin. AKA’s recent engagement for engineering, procurement and construction services with the City of Summerside’s Sunbank (solar farm) project is an example of AKA being recognized as a leader in this space.
Currently, AKA Energy is partnered with RE-FUEL Renewable Fuels, and is poised to receive two new electrolysers in 2024, which it’s purchasing from German company, Enapter. “At this juncture AKA has entered into an agreement with Enapter to purchase these two units, but there is no commitment on the operational timeline as we are still exploring the best application,” stated Aspin. And while AKA is familiar with the need for ammonia in European markets, they have not engaged in ammonia production at this time. Nonetheless, Aspin explained, “we are also working with various parties to develop local demand for hydrogen as part of the transition to our low carbon future and P.E.I.’s commitment to being Net Zero by 2040.”
Aspin admits that there has been some pushback in P.E.I. on wind energy, based on the topography of the province. However, he said, “P.E.I. has found ways to implement these wind energy installations with the highest percentage of wind energy production in Canada.”
Belledune Port Authority (BPA) is also stepping up with a daring vision to attract and develop green industry fuelled by renewable energy.
New Brunswick’s northeastern provincial port is transforming to diversify, grow and green its business with an innovative plan and vision. That dream is underpinned by a determination to green current operations and build a Green Energy Hub that will attract clean industry and enable large-scale production of renewable energy, specifically green hydrogen.
Port of Belledune offers four marine terminals, 1,600 acres of industrial-zoned land and some of the shortest sea shipping routes to Europe. With the new Green Energy Hub, it’s working to enhance and augment those advantages to, as Belledune Port Authority (BPA) president and CEO, Denis Caron said, “bring the vision to life.”
After a two-year research and planning process involving input from experts in marine transportation, green energy, community and industry stakeholders as well as Indigenous rights holders, BPA’s new Master Development Plan 2022-2052 lays out a 30-year roadmap to shift from declining traditional industries to a more dynamic future while supporting a green economic transition for the province.
Phase One, which began last year, involves securing new maritime-dependent industrial users to take advantage of existing infrastructure and drive additional cargo; greening port operations as much as possible; and establishing a cluster of industrial action including import/export of processed materials with traditional liquid and dry bulk.
It also involves exploring opportunities through new partnerships and agreements. With new European deals already inked, BPA is well on its way. BPA recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the German-based Port of Wilhelmshaven for collaborating on the passage of dry and liquid bulk commodities, and manufactured goods focusing on clean fuels and green products.
With renewable energy symmetries, variables and vision aligning for immediate and long-term economic opportunities, Atlantic Canada is well poised as a critical catalyst to produce faster and prolonged ROI while realizing carbon-free energy targets. And that’s good news for everyone, planet included.
Brian McLaughlin is a freelance writer with a background in energy (oil, gas, clean energy) research, alternative technologies, and economic development and business coverage. He is based in New Brunswick.
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