Hydrogen plant proponent looks to plug in to N.L. Hydro grid

A company looking to build hundreds of wind turbines to power a hydrogen and ammonia factory on Newfoundland’s west coast is hoping to plug into the province’s grid and draw up to 155 megawatts of electricity.

That’s equal to about one-fifth of the electricity produced at the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric dam.

Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro is currently evaluating a grid interconnection application from World Energy GH2, but says if the company wants to connect into the provincial electricity system, it will have to foot the bill.

Four companies — World Energy, ABO, EVREC and Everwind N.L. — are vying to build expansive wind projects on Crown lands. A fifth company, Pattern Energy, is also planning a major wind farm, but on private property. 

Each firm hopes to use wind turbines to supply a green hydrogen and ammonia plant with clean power. But when the wind doesn’t blow, other sources of clean energy will be required to keep their facilities running. High-tech batteries are one possible solution, but hydroelectricity will inevitably play a major role.

Estimated 600 to 650 gigawatt-hours required

World Energy, which is proposing 328 wind turbines in the Port au Port region and in the Codroy Valley, is the only company whose project is currently under environmental review.

Documents submitted to the provincial government through that process show World Energy has asked N.L. Hydro to provide it with at least 10 megawatts of electricity at all times. It has also requested that 145 megawatts be “made available 24/7 during summer, and partially available during the four months in winter.”

In total, the project would purchase 600 to 650 gigawatt-hours of power from N.L. Hydro each year, according to the impact statement. By comparison, the Muskrat Falls dam produced about 4,200 gigawatt-hours in 2022, according to N.L. Hydro.

“Higher-power imports are expected during summer, when grid power demand in the region is relatively low,” says project’s 4,100-page environmental impact statement.

N.L. Hydro says it’s studying the feasibility of World Energy’s interconnection application and its impacts on current customers.

“These studies will determine the details of the required interconnection and upgrades to N.L. Hydro’s existing assets, if any are required, as well as the associated costs, associated transmission lines and accompanying environmental impacts as N.L. Hydro works through its interconnection process with the proponent,” wrote spokesperson Jill Pitcher. 

“New customers are responsible for all costs incurred to connect their facilities to Hydro’s island interconnected system.”

Purchaser and seller?

World Energy’s impact statement also points to potentially selling electricity to N.L. Hydro. It indicates that the “anticipated benefits of potentially supplying electricity to the grid are detailed in Section” — although company spokesperson Laura Barron said the section was removed before the document was submitted to the province.

“The removed section was in draft form and is no longer accurate or relevant,” Barron wrote. “We have been consulting with N.L. Hydro since the beginning of the project and will continue to do so. Any further details are to be determined and will be released at the appropriate time.”

N.L. Hydro hasn’t closed the door to purchasing excess electricity from World Energy but says a number of studies would be necessary before such a decision could be made. 

Pitcher added that the “design of interconnections and system upgrades can only be finalized through studies to be completed by or on behalf of [N.L. Hydro], paid for in advance by [the] bidder, and typically spanning many months or even more than a year as is normal in other jurisdictions.”

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