Haida delegation visits wind farms in United Kingdom

  • Jul. 29, 2009 11:00 a.m.

A group of Haida were blown away during a recent trip to the United Kingdom to visit existing offshore wind farms. The group, including Arnie Bellis, Beryl Parke, and Allan Wilson of Masset and Betty Richardson, David Crosby and Lonnie Young of Skidegate, visited two existing offshore farms, the Scroby Sands Project in Greater Yarmouth and the Robin Rigg Field near Solway Firth in Scotland (which just recently started generating electricity). Mr. Bellis said there are a lot of wind farms on land and water in the UK and the group wanted to find out what community members thought of these facilities. He said they interviewed people in nearby towns about the offshore projects and found that people voiced the same concerns as people on Haida Gwaii have done at public meetings and during the environmental assessment process. They were worried about the birds, the marine life and the visual impacts, said Mr. Bellis. But in the end, the Britons said they don’t have a problem with the wind farms. “They’d rather have them than coal bed methane or nuclear,” he said. At Scroby Sands, there are 30 turbines that stand 60 metres above the sea floor and are 2.5 km from shore. They produce 60 MW of electricity. At Robin Rigg, 60 turbines stand 50 metres tall and are 9 km from shore, producing 180 MW. Naikun’s proposed project would place up to 110 turbines offshore of Haida Gwaii’s east coast in Hecate Strait. It would be the world’s largest offshore wind project with phase one to produce 320 to 396 MW. The company plans on five phases, which will produce 1,750 MW in total. Mr. Bellis said they could not hear noise from the offshore wind turbines and people in the villages said the turbines drew tourists who are interested in sustainable energy to restaurants and hotels. The group also took boat trips out among the turbines and said birds were flying and floating among them, porpoises were swimming through. He also said the turbines they saw were placed half a kilometre apart, whereas Naikun’s are planned to be one kilometre apart. The group also spoke with crab fishermen in the UK. Mr. Bellis said they were opposed to it, but in the end are working with the situation. He said they are hoping to bring a representative from the crab fishermen’s association to the islands in the future. As an overall impression, Mr. Bellis said: “It made me feel like we are going to have to do a good job on the environmental assessment.” He said a lot of people on the islands have their opinions, but the essential thing is to get away from diesel. “If there is opposition, that’s fine, but you’re going to have to come back with something else. Promoting the status quo is not acceptable,” he said. For her part, Ms Richardson said she was very impressed with the wind farms they visited. “If we can use our natural resources like the wind, I think it’s a wonderful thing,” she said.