Argentia trail project will co-exist with wind farm

Posted on August 31, 2023 | By Ashley Fitzpatrick | 1 Comment


A preliminary map of possible wind turbine locations for the Pattern Energy-led wind development, as part of the overall wind-hydrogen-ammonia project at the Port of Argentia. The red dots, while in forested area, are all on port property. Exact locations and number are still subject to change. Some pre-existing roads from the former military facility are not visible here. Labels on the core of the Port of Argentia and downtown Placentia have been enhanced for greater visibility. The Town of Placentia is an amalgamated municipality that doesn’t reach Fox Harbour to the North, but covers other areas pictured, including from Dunville to the East to the port in the West. (Source: Submitted Google Earth file, plus placename enhancements)


Pattern Energy and Argentia Capital’s wind-hydrogen-ammonia development project in Placentia, focused at the Port of Argentia, hasn’t been registered for environmental review yet. However, a project in part involving hiking trails in the same area as proposed wind turbines is actively under review and set for a key decision on Friday.

The province may yet require more time and information for the overlapping trail project—one including existing trails in Argentia and extending to link to more trail reaching into Placentia proper, for 22 kilometres in total. But if all goes well, the trail project could become a touchstone for industrial-scale wind-hydrogen-ammonia developers. It’s certainly relevant to the simmering discussions around land use for wind power, cooperation with local communities and social license.

Retaining and expanding community trails in an overlapping piece of geography with wind turbines has the potential to tangibly demonstrate a willingness and ability to accommodate at least one kind of pre-existing interest within an overall project area. It can also show both the sheer scale of land involved in the footprint of project proposals, in what may not look quite so large at a glance on a map or satellite view. The trails project also offers the opportunity to clarify for the public the spatial needs, including safety-based requirements, for industrial wind and individual turbines. Wind farms of any size are still a rarity in the province, with just two farms of much smaller scale established, producing power for sale into the provincial electricity grid.

Atlantic Business Magazine will have more from Placentia and Argentia, on the Pattern Energy-led project, in its next print issue, out Sept. 1 and beginning to arrive now to subscribers. But in brief, the wind-hydrogen-ammonia project has been discussed in localized public information sessions, with the municipality and different interest groups. Generally speaking, there has been cautious optimism expressed publicly in the area to date. It is being proposed in phases, with the first to include a 300-megawatt (MW) wind farm on the Port of Argentia property. Hydrogen and ammonia production facilities are also part of the first-phase development, similarly set to be built on the privately held property of the port. Pattern is a known entity in wind power in North America, partnering with Argentia Capital. Argentia Capital is a new entity, created to represent a partnership of the active port and investors with Torrent Capital. In other words, the private port authority is directly involved in the proposed development and able to speak to the proposed uses for the space within the boundaries of the former American military base-turned-heavy industrial centre.

The fact the initial development is proposed for private property, a brownfield site, versus Crown Lands is regularly mentioned by proponents of the project, and not just the formal proponents, but also others in the area. The company is interested in expansion with additional wind power as it gets established. Siting of additional wind has not been fixed to any degree as far as ABM is aware but is expected to require Crown lands. Pattern Energy was not successful in an initial Crown lands bid process for expansion space, but still has what it needs for a first phase and can make further Crown lands proposals. For now, the use of private property allows the company to move ahead into environmental reviews if it so chooses.


The Argentia Backlands Trails are an existing system of hiking trails through the old base property, now controlled by the port. The trail area overlaps with a proposed wind farm development. The port expects both can coexist. These trails are to be connected to a wider-reaching system of roughly 22 kilometres total, proposed by Hike Placentia Inc.


Welcome to the Backlands

A view on the likely first wind turbine locations in the area, on the port property, was offered to ABM earlier this summer (see map). Details for the initial development have changed since there were first murmurings in the community of Placentia of something to be proposed for the area and are still subject to change. That said, the project has firmed up through ongoing internal work and consultations.

As it stands, the first wind turbines are set to be placed around an area on the old base known as the “Backlands”. Even people somewhat familiar with the area, driving through on their way to or from the Marine Atlantic ferry terminal at the port, looking out on forested hills, may not be aware of the Backlands and full extent of the port’s property holdings. Locals are more familiar, knowing the gravel road is still in use through the trees and older roads traversed by military vehicles decades ago. There are more recent additions, with walking trails and lookouts, creating a roughly 16-kilometre network for locals and tourists alike. The trail system was one of the first projects undertaken in an effort to find new uses for the property, after the former military base was handed back to Canada and, in turn, the local Argentia Management Authority in 1994. Maps for the existing Argentia Backlands Trail system, with routes like the “Churchill Sprint” and “Roosevelt Walk” are available at the nearby Town of Placentia office.

At this point, an organization called Hike Placentia Inc. (HPI) is looking to take the existing trail network at the Argentia site, make some improvements such as fixes to old lookouts, and link the Backlands to a larger network proposed for the Placentia area. The new Placentia Area Hiking Trail network, reaching out to a full 22-kilometre system, reaching down into the heart of the Town of Placentia and out to the Point Verde lighthouse to the Southwest, is now under review. While HPI is the main contact for the trails project, the proposal is described as a joint effort by a collection of local groups, including the Placentia Chamber of Commerce, the Placentia Lions Club and HPI. The port has also indicated its support.

The overlap has, to date, not seemed to faze anyone.

“The Port and the regional trails committee (Hike Placentia) are in regular communications on the Pattern Wind turbine development. There will be no conflicts with these initiatives, lots of room for everyone,” stated the port’s VP for Strategy and Growth Chris Newhook via email to ABM, including an exclamation point for enthusiasm.

Newhook is well positioned to speak to the feelings all around, as he works at the port and is associated with the collaborative trails committee. He also volunteers with the Placentia Lions Club and often represents them in discussions about the trails project.

The hiking trail proposal has some hitches, including the need to work with Parks Canada on connections through Castle Hill National Historic Site. However, it has passed through a public comment period and the provincial Minister of Environment and Climate Change could announce a release from environmental review any day or request more information and add to the review period for the trails project.


A screen capture from the registration document for Hike Placentia Inc.’s proposed trail project, reaching throughout Placentia, including new links to the existing Argentia Backlands Trail system. The trail system would be a recreational resource for locals but also an improvement to the area’s existing tourism-related resources.


Deputy Prime Minister’s endorsement

Early this week, the more substantial wind-hydrogen-ammonia industrial development coming together for Pattern and Argentia Capital received a visit and ringing endorsement from Canada’s Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland. Freeland said she made the trip because she wants herself—and cabinet colleagues—to see some of the places set to benefit from new federal tax credits aimed at spurring more renewable power and hydrogen production.

She did not have to, but went so far as to say, “Newfoundland and Labrador is becoming a global hydrogen leader” and publicly endorsed the local wind-hydrogen-ammonia proponents’ drive toward making new projects reality in relatively short order.

“I really believe that there is a race right now in the world. There is a race to attract capital and there is a race to build the big, clean energy projects the world is going to need to fuel the green transition. I describe this transition as being comparable to the Industrial Revolution and I really, really believe that it is. And I think Canada can win that race,” she said, offering encouragement.

Federal support in Argentia isn’t particularly news. Earlier this summer, the federal government announced roughly $38 million in contributions to planned infrastructure upgrades at the port’s property, for extension of wharfage, roll-on/roll-off cargo capability and investigation of port electrification options. That’s separate from the wind-hydrogen-ammonia development but will at the same time position the port to help serve industrial project needs.

Freeland said the federal government has to keep checking in with promising projects, talk to the people looking to build, talk to locals, to assure the steps being taken by the Government of Canada—particularly things like the new tax credits—are the right ones.

Pattern Energy and its local partners seem to like what they’ve seen so far. That’s both from the federal government and from local response to the initial development concept.

“We’re going to be here… I hope for decades. And we’re only going to do it as partners, with all the local community support that we’ve found,” said Pattern’s Chief Development Officer Cary Kottler at the first tour and then press conference with Freeland.

“The efforts made by Pattern to engage with our organization and community have been truly remarkable. And we’re genuinely excited for what the future holds for our port, community and Pattern Energy,” said Port of Argentia board chair Genny Picco.


After touring the Placentia-Argentia area through the afternoon, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland issues public support for a proposed wind-hydrogen-ammonia development in the area. With Freeland are (l-r): Genny Picco, board chair, Port of Argentia; Cary Kottler, Pattern Energy Chief Development Officer; Ken McDonald, Avalon MP; and, Seamus O’Regan, Canada’s Minister of Labour and an N.L. representative in the federal cabinet. (Photo by Ashley Fitzpatrick, ABM)


Further provincial decisions

Provincial Industry and Energy Minister Andrew Parsons said he wasn’t aware of the Freeland visit and media call before it happened. But the province has been busy in its regulatory role, clearing four companies in addition to Pattern for Crown land applications for wind-hydrogen-ammonia projects. If those projects move ahead, the province estimates an economic impact of over $200 billion in gross domestic product over 35 to 40 years (differing initial lifespans suggested per project), plus an overall provincial treasury impact of $11.7 billion. Total capital spending alone on the full build-out of the four projects requiring Crown lands is about $66 billion.

“This is not the green light for projects to begin construction today,” Parsons said, in announcing winning bids and Crown lands reserves this week.

“I’m excited about the economic opportunities that these projects will bring to the province in the years to come,” he said.

Parsons mentioned the Pattern-led project in Argentia-Placentia would not require Crown land to proceed.

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One response to “Argentia trail project will co-exist with wind farm”

  1. First of all , I don’t give anyone the right to speak, on my behalf.
    These wind jacks , are so huge , they will leave a big impact on our backlands.
    These backlands is the source where our water supply comes from. Any contaminants will either flow or run in the water table and pollute our drinking water . Reference is New Harbour Barrons dump closure, because it destroyed wells in the New Harbour area. A great distance away.
    The noise will be heard throughout the area, forcing residents to leave , unable to sell their homes .
    Those that say no to my opinion , has not lived where these things dwell.

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