Wind project centrepiece of Haida economic strategy

  • Aug. 14, 2009 6:00 p.m.

By Jeff King–The planned Haida investment in the NaiKun wind farm could generate profits of $20-million a year for the Haida people, and stabilize the economy on the islands, according to Thomas Olsen, managing director of the Haida Enterprise Corporation (HaiCo). “It’s clean, it’s green, it’s the direction the Haida want to go,” Mr. Olsen told the Observer on Friday, “first and foremost, they have fought to protect their environment and culture.” He called the planned investment “a strong move to stabilize the economy on Haida Gwaii and build for the future.” Both NaiKun and HaiCo announced August 13 they had reached an agreement allowing HaiCo to acquire up to 40-percent of the wind farm planned for Hecate Strait. That project is now estimated to cost $2-billion, meaning HaiCo can acquire up to $800-million at current valuation. Where the money will come from is not entirely clear. Mr. Olsen said “different sources, I can’t disclose from where,” and also said it would come from the same institutions as NaiKun is working with.” He also noted that a new program in Ottawa is likely to be involved.”We look forward to working with the federal government on this initiative and are encouraged by the direction they have taken in the new Federal Framework for Aboriginal Economic Development,” Mr. Olsen said.”We believe there are some tools there that will help us achieve some of our goals,” he also said. The federal program was announced last June, with one goal, among others, to “leverage greater access to commercial capital.”Mr. Olsen expects to have funding in place by mid-October to finalize the agreement.”Our people have always put our lands, waters and culture first,” said Guujaaw, president of the Council of the Haida Nation. “We are putting this project through a rigorous environmental assessment, and it is looking good. The next logical step is to work out the business case for our people, who could see this project as a centerpiece to our economic strategy.” In a press release issued last Thursday, HEC said future income from the wind farm could provide a catalyst to enable the Haida Nation to create a sustainable economy for the islands in such areas as forestry products, fisheries and aquaculture, tourism and recreation and community infrastructure. “This is a great opportunity for the Haida people, we see this as redirecting the earnings that would have normally gone to outside investors and is keeping them here at home”, said Mr. Olsen. He said the wind farm will create significant numbers of jobs initially, and profits will allow the Haida to invest in a wide range of sustainable economic ventures on the islands.”This is an important step for the NaiKun Wind project, said Paul Taylor, NaiKun Wind’s president and CEO. “Having the Haida Nation with an ownership interest in the proposed project company underscores their support and commitment.”NaiKun Wind plans initially a 110-turbine wind farm on Dogfish Banks in Hecate Strait. It would provide just under 400 megawatts of power, enough for 130,000 homes). It’s planned to connect to the mainland grid, and possibly to the islands as well, ending diesel generation here. The Haida Nation is already a full partner with NaiKun Wind in the subsidiary that will operate and maintain the project after construction. NaiKun needs environmental approval and a purchase agreement with BC Hydro before the project is built.

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