Funding and red tape take the wind out of St. John's climate plans


In 2010, Nick Mercer disembarked from the ferry in Port aux Basques, N.L., to find the Trans-Canada Highway closed due to unsafe weather conditions.

It wasn’t ice or rain threatening to shove his cozy Hyundai Accent into the ditch — it was wind.

Mercer was in disbelief but would learn — through his master’s at Memorial University, his PhD in geology and environmental management at the University of Waterloo and a great deal of first-hand experience — that Newfoundland and Labrador has some of the fiercest winds in all of North America. It could go toe-to-toe with any jurisdiction in the world. This revelation brought with it a question, one that took hold of him on that first day in Port aux Basques and directed the course of his career: “How is it possible to have such a profound wind energy resource, but still be ranked last dead (dead last) in wind energy capacity?”

Newfoundland and Labrador has less installed wind generation capacity than any other Canadian province, a grand total of 54 megawatts across two wind farms. By comparison, neighbouring Nova Scotia, which has less wind to work with, has in excess of 600 megawatts of installed wind capacity.

A 2008 assessment from Memorial University concluded Newfoundland and Labrador could theoretically generate 117 times the amount of energy it consumes just from wind. And an analysis from 2016, published in the journal Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, calculated that if the province harnessed only a quarter of its high-capacity wind sites, it could power a spectacular 20 per cent of the country. And yet, only 18 turbines stand, with no more on the horizon.