A new wind project proposed in central Newfoundland would see the Town of Botwood become a bustling hub, with about 300 windmills scattered across central Newfoundland.
The massive proposal is being put forth by the Exploits Valley Renewable Energy Corporation. The group's chief executive officer, James Colter Eadie, says the project would involve 3,000 megawatts of energy by the final phase, and involve an investment between $3 billion and $6 billion — "a substantial investment for Newfoundland," he said.
Construction would require 2,000 workers, with 500 permanent jobs in the region after the project is complete.
The windmills would stretch from Grand Falls-Windsor on the interior to Leading Tickles on the northeast coast. The shuttered port of Botwood would be the hub for shipping the fuel to markets in the United States and Europe.
"Most of those lands are the old Abitibi lands, as Newfoundlanders would call them," Eadie said, referring to the paper company that was once the predominant employer in the region.
Several proposals have come and gone over the years, promising to turn Botwood into a shipping hub for a variety of industrial pursuits. None has taken shape to date.
EVREC is working with the Marine Group of Companies, based in Corner Brook, which includes Marine Contractors Inc. and Corner Brook Fabrication and Steel.
Marine Group's chief financial officer, Adam Buckle, said a project of such massive scope would be transformational for the region, which has suffered economically since Abitibi pulled out of its paper mill operations in 2009.
"When you think of a $6-billion project when it's completely phased out, that's roughly six per cent of the gross domestic product of Newfoundland and Labrador, which is substantial," Buckle said. "It's very exciting for central Newfoundland, very exciting for Newfoundland and Labrador, and we're just happy to be a part of it."
Public information tour underway
The project is still a proposal in the early stages. The province opened up bids for access to Crown lands for wind projects in December, and they close March 3. The EVREC proposal won't be able to go ahead unless it is the winning bidder for that parcel of land in the Bay of Exploits region.
If it does go ahead, Buckle said they'll be looking to hire locals first.
"We want to hire Newfoundland and Labradorians first, so there will be a benefits agreement in place," he said. "Of course, we will need to look outside of that as well, but it's Newfoundland and Labrador first."
The company is one of several bidding to build wind turbines across the province, which will create hydrogen to be concerted to ammonia and shipped around the world. EVREC also hopes to sell any excess power back to the grid.
"We're hopeful that we can have that discussion with Newfoundland Hydro over the development period and we can also add the benefit of providing energy and stability to the grid as well as just providing tax base through the export of the final product," Eadie said.
While there is little public information available on EVREC, or its parent company Abraxas, records show Eadie is also the CEO of Jade Power Trust — a company focused on developing and generating energy from renewable sources in Romania. It sold 81 megawatts worth of assets to a European firm in November 2022 for about $100 million.
Jade Power Trust was formerly known as Blockchain Power Trust but ceased cryptocurrency mining in October 2018 and switched its focus to Romanian renewables.
Eadie and Buckle have been holding public information sessions throughout the central region this week. The first was held in Point Leamington on Monday evening, followed by sessions at Botwood Collegiate on Tuesday, the Bishop's Falls Lions Club on Wednesday and the Classic Theatre in Grand Falls-Windsor on Thursday. All sessions are scheduled for 7 p.m.
They said the first session was positive, with some people asking when they could start applying for jobs. They said they are prepared to answer questions on the environmental impact of the project, and look forward to engaging the public in the environmental assessment.