Naikun may have first offshore wind far in North America, Masset council hears

  • May. 4, 2009 7:00 a.m.

If all goes according to plan, NaiKun Wind Energy will have Canada’s first offshore wind farm up and operating in Hecate Strait within the next five years, company officials told Masset council last week. The project might even be the first offshore wind farm in North America, vice-president Matt Burns said. But while they’re new here, wind farms are much more common in Europe. “Wind is amongst the cleanest sources of energy,” he said at the April 27 village council meeting. “It is proven technology. The Europeans have now gotten to the point where they are building their second generation of wind farms offshore.” Mr. Burns said NaiKun has been operating a meteorological mast in the area where it hopes to install the wind turbines, about eight kilometres off the northeastern coast of Graham Island. Data from the mast continues to confirm that the Hecate Strait winds are “world class” and well suited for a wind farm, he said. Councillor Andrew Merilees asked how tall the wind turbines will be, noting that the meteorological mast is visible from Graham Island. Mr. Burns responded that the turbines will be three times as tall as the mast. From the point of the highest tide, the turbines will rise about 125 metres, which is about the height of a 40-storey building. These large turbines move more slowly than old turbines, he added. While the older ones could rotate at almost the speed of sound, the new ones have a maximum speed of about 280 kilometres per hour at their tip, or about 13 revolutions per minute. “They are much slower and more graceful,” he said. Mr. Burns and Lucy Shaw, manager of communications and community relations, told council they’ll be hearing lots more from NaiKun in the coming months as it enters its environmental assessment review process. The 45-day public comment period for the project will start in mid-May, and the company will be holding public open houses in Masset and Queen Charlotte in May or June. “We’ll be conducting stakeholder meetings and local government briefings,” Ms Shaw said. If all goes well, NaiKun expects to receive environmental approval from federal and provincial environment ministers before the end of the year, she said. The company is also seeking environmental approval from the Haida Nation. At the same time, Mr. Burns said, NaiKun is hoping to hear from BC Hydro that it has been successful in its bid to supply energy to the provincial grid. Hydro has received about 40 bids in response to its “clean power call”, he said, and should be announcing the successful suppliers this summer. NaiKun has offered to supply a relatively big chunk of what BC Hydro needs and is the largest wind project involved. Mr. Burns also told council members most of the work assembling the turbines will be done in Prince Rupert, but the wind farm’s operating bases will be on Haida Gwaii. Masset will the base for air service and Skidegate will be the base for marine service, he said. NaiKun has a partnership with the Haida Nation to provide operational services to the wind farm once it is up and running, he continued. The agreement, signed earlier this year, makes the Haida Nation a 50 percent partner in the business entity which will provide operations and maintenance services. NaiKun has offered to supply electricity to the islands through a “HaidaLink” connection to the wind farm, Mr. Burns said, although it’s not yet clear how Hydro will deal with the offer. It doesn’t fit into the recent clean power call, which was to supply electricity to the provincial system, and it also doesn’t fit Hydro’s call for on-island power suppliers, because HaidaLink can’t be built without the larger wind farm. HaidaLink would bring energy to the islands through a cable which would run southwest from the turbines and land at Tlell. From there, power could be sent north and south. HaidaLink would also connect the islands to the provincial power grid.