Beothuk lays Canada offshore plan

Canada’s Beothuk Energy has laid out plans to build its first offshore wind farm in St. George’s Bay, along the southwestern coast of Newfoundland, and an O&M port in Stephenville, the only town along the Bay.

Last autumn Beothuk announced plans to privately fund and build a 180MW offshore wind farm at an unspecified site in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

The site Beothuk has chosen in St. George’s Bay has water depths of less than 50 metres, is outside of major shipping lanes and bird-migration routes, and is close to a major transmission corridor, according to the St. John’s-based developer.

Beothuk has requested an investigative permit from the government of Newfoundland and Labrador province for the proposed location.

The entire C$400m ($364m) proposal could create up to 600 jobs during peak construction, including 100 out of the O&M base at Port Harmon, Stephenville, the developer claims.

Key to the proposal is Beothuk’s plan to establish a manufacturing base for gravity-based foundations at Corner Brook, some 80km north of Stephenville and the largest population centre along the western coast of Newfoundland.

Gravity-based foundations, while increasingly rare in the European offshore wind theatre, feature commonly in eastern Canada’s growing offshore hydrocarbons industry, and Beothuk envisages a significant “transfer of technologies” between the two sectors.

Beothuk has said it will employ turbines rated at 6MW or higher for the project, using tugboats to transport the various elements to the site.

The developer claims the offshore wind farm will produce electricity at a cost of less than C$100 ($91) per MWh.

By comparison, the UK – the world’s largest offshore wind market – has offered developers £155 ($260) per MWh in 2014/15, dropping to £140 per MWh in 2018/19.

Between the wind farm itself, the foundations plant, and the O&M base, Beothuk aims to turn western Newfoundland – a large island jutting out into the Gulf of St. Lawrence with nearly 500,000 residents – into a “North American centre of excellence for offshore wind manufacturing, staging and servicing”, says chief executive Kirby Mercer.

Another critical element to the proposal is the 500MW high-voltage direct-current (HVDC) “Maritime Link” transmission route that will enter construction this year, linking Newfoundland to Nova Scotia, which is part of mainland North America.

The C$1.5bn Maritime Link – which includes a 170km subsea section running beneath the Cabot Strait – is being built with an eye towards linking Labrador’s hydropower resource to more populous regions in eastern Canada, but it may also benefit on- and offshore wind developers.

Beothuk has not proposed a timeline for its offshore wind project. The Maritime Link is due on line in 2017.

Should the project go ahead, it may become the first offshore wind farm in Canadian waters, given the ongoing legal uncertainties plaguing Trillium Power’s proposed developments in Lake Ontario.