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February 28 2024

U.K trip could help keep the wind at our backs

Taxpayers sometimes view international trade missions with suspicion. They wonder – not unreasonably – whether they’re worth the money and effort that could otherwise be spent more productively at home. But, sometimes, local and global interests dovetail perfectly.

For the long-range economic development of Guysborough County, the Eastern Shore and Nova Scotia, the recent fact-finding mission – organized by the Municipality of the District of Guysborough (MODG) – to the vast offshore wind farms of the North Sea seems to have been both well-timed and well worth it.

MODG Chief Administrative Officer Barry Carroll may sound like a kid in a candy store when he reports the experience was “fantastic” (see this week’s story by Alec Bruce). But, considering what he and the other 11 members of the mission – from all levels of government and the private sector in Nova Scotia – encountered in Aberdeen, Scotland, and Newcastle on Tyne, England, over four jam-packed days, it’s hard to argue.

He and the group met with the Aberdeen Renewables Energy Group, the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation and the Global Underwater Hub. They visited the Net Zero Technology Centre, the Energy Transition Zone of the Scottish Enterprise Agency and the Equinor Maintenance and Operations Facility. They spent time at the Port of Tyne Port Authority, 3t Training Services and ORE Catapult innovation hub.

When they were done – when they had absorbed the wisdom of 30 years of offshore wind projects in the U.K. – they had new insights not only into the potential of the industry in these waters, but also about the safeguards needed to secure existing local economic engines.

Over and over, their hosts urged them to temper their enthusiasm with prudence. Do the research, consult everyone and think carefully at every stage before leaping ahead with Nova Scotia’s nascent wind industry, which is expected to build hundreds of offshore turbines – many in key fishing grounds – delivering as much as five gigawatts of new energy by 2030.

“Engage, engage, engage,” the Scottish fishers told the Nova Scotia delegation. Learn from our mistakes. Ensure that there’s sufficient marine spatial planning for the trawlers of the Guysborough County Inshore Fishermen’s Association (GCIFA), among others, before the turbines go up and the cables go down. There’s room and opportunity for all, if you plan ahead.

Even before the mission, it was encouraging to see how Nova Scotia’s local and provincial governments seemed to be on the same page with fishers. But, as GCIFA delegate Ginny Boudreau told The Journal upon her return, the trip “affirmed” and reinforced that commitment, if only because “we were all in the same room together hearing the same message.”

Being in the same room together is exactly the point. And, if it takes an international trade mission to double-down on that worthy goal, then so be it. The investment will yield crucial dividends for everyone down the road.

Offshore wind represents a huge opportunity for Guysborough County and all of Nova Scotia. But only if we get it right. So far, it looks like we’re on the right course.