Haida Nation members in the Canadian province of British Columbia have voted overwhelmingly against entering into a proposed business partnership with a private company seeking to develop the 396MW NaiKun offshore wind project.
Haida Nation President Guujaaw Edenshaw tells Recharge that the 505-181 vote was a fair reflection of prevailing sentiment among his members that the project represents an unacceptable financial risk for them, and could pose problems for birds and the ecosystem in the Hecate Strait.
“They genuinely believed that it would be harmful to marine life,” he says, even though that concern was downplayed if mitigation measures are taken in environmental approvals done by the federal and provincial governments.
The Haida Nation has an option to buy 40% of the estimated C$2bn ($1.92bn) wind farm that developer NaiKun Wind Energy Group has sought to build for the past several years.
Its governing council was looking at perhaps a C$300m investment and even that amount was a challenge. “Where the heck are we going to get that kind of money?” asks Edenshaw, who speculates it could only happen with a federal or provincial loan guarantee.
The 110-turbine project stalled in 2010 when provincial utility BC Hydro rejected Naikun Wind’s proposal for a long-term power purchase agreement as too expensive relative to other options.
A report commissioned by the Haida Nation’s governing council says project costs could be about $150 per MWh – several times BC Hydro’s average cost from existing clean sources. Talks between the two sides are ongoing.
Edenshaw, who personally favors the project, says that offshore wind will have difficulty competing with abundant new supplies of natural gas in northern British Columbia, at least at today’s prices. The province is committed to continued heavy reliance on hydro for electricity production, although BC Hydro has signed contracts for onshore wind.
The report says the project would create between 30 and 50 full-time jobs plus additional indirect ones, and provide the Haida Nation with financial benefits. Those include annual payment fees and dividends based on any Haida share of project ownership.
Edenshaw is circumspect over whether abundant wind resource will be harvested in the 160-mile-long (260km) Hecate Strait, which separates the mainland from Haida Gwaii, the former Queen Charlotte Islands. His people have lived there for millennia. “It remains to be seen,” he says.
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