By Lloyd Dolha
A prominent BC First Nation tribal group and a Vancouver-based renewable energy company have embarked on a historic partnership for the development of Canada’s first offshore wind energy project.
Located in British Columbia’s Hectate Strait between Haida Gwaii (the Queen Charlotte Islands) and the mainland, the NaiKun project will supply up to 396 megawatts of clean, environmentally-friendly energy, enough to power some 130,00 homes and link Haida Gwaii to the province’s electrical grid. “The establishment of the limited partnership marks a significant milestone for NaiKun’s business relationship with the Haida and is a key step forward for the development of offshore wind energy in British Columbia,” said Michael Burns, chair of NaiKun’s board of directors.
The limited commercial partnership between the Council of Haida Nation and NaiKun Wind Energy will provide comprehensive benefits to the Haida Nation that includes revenue sharing and environmental stewardship, as well as employment and economic development opportunities for the Haida people. The partners will operate and maintain the wind energy project following construction.
The agreement formalizes the relationship between the Haida Nation and NaiKun (on-going since 2002) and builds upon a memorandum of understanding signed by the parties in May 2007. The Haida Nation and NaiKun Wind Operating Inc., a subsidiary of Naikun, will participate equally in the partnership in terms of ownership and economic value. The $2 billion project is still contingent on the receipt of environmental approvals from the harmonized federal/provincial environmental assessment process and the Haida Nation itself. The application for an Environmental Assessment Certificate will be formally submitted to the BC Environmental Assessment Office and the Council of Haida Nation in early 2009. The wind energy project is also dependant on the award of an Energy Purchase Agreement from BC Hydro.
Last November, NaiKun submitted a proposal for the project to BC Hydro’s Clean Power Call—an initiative launched last June that seeks 5,000 gigawatt hours of clean renewable energy per year as part of its effort to attain a goal of energy self-sufficiency for the province by 2016. NaiKun points out that wind energy is one of the cleanest, most abundant, and most cost-effective resources for electricity generation.
Wind speeds over water are generally greater than on land, which makes energy from offshore wind projects more consistent and efficient. The Hectate Strait has some of the strongest and most consistent winds in Canada. The NaiKun project is located in an area with average annual wind speeds ranging between 9.5 and 10 metres per second, which gives the region the potential to become one of the most efficient , high-producing wind project locations in the world.
Located in the shallow waters of Dogfish Banks off the east coast of Haida Gwaii, the sandy seabed along the banks at the project site is well suited for offshore construction. Local residents have been employed during the project planning and design stage, and 200 seasonal jobs will be created during project construction. Following construction, 30 to 50 long-term career positions will be created for operations and maintenance. Training and recruiting for the project will begin immediately, as activity for the project ramps up for the start of construction in 2012. Toward that end, NaiKun will set up to 110 wind turbine generators to be installed in 2013 and 2014.
In addition to local First Nations support, the majority of British Columbians also support the wind energy project. Last September, a public opinion poll conducted by the Mustel Group, indicated that 73 percent of British Columbians support the green energy project. “The Haida people support development that brings benefits of all kinds—individual, commercial and environmental—to Haida Gwaii and to the Haida Nation,” said Guujaw, president of the Haida Nation.