Tuesday, May 28, 2024

U.K. visit reinforces huge potential in offshore wind

Council briefed on recent delegation

  • February 28 2024
  • By Alec Bruce, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter    

GUYSBOROUGH — Barry Carroll makes no bones about it – readying the Eastern Shore for its future in offshore wind, the Municipality of the District of Guysborough (MODG)-led fact-finding mission to the U.K.’s massive wind farms last month was nothing short of “fantastic.”

MODG’s chief administrative officer (CAO), who spearheaded the 12-member delegation of municipal, provincial and industry reps from Nova Scotia to Aberdeen, Scotland, and the northwest coast of England, from Jan. 28-31, said: “It gave us what we needed to understand what’s expected as the province [prepares] to call for offshore wind [development] bids in Nova Scotia.”

The trip was funded by government, including a $35,000 contribution from MODG.

The visit reinforced the view that the potential is, indeed, enormous. According to a post-mission briefing note Carroll presented to MODG council last week, the provincial government “plans to offer leases for 5GW of offshore wind energy in 2025, [to be] operational by 2030. The energy generated will be used domestically, and to support green hydrogen production in the strait region.”

Crucially, it said, “A majority of the 5GW of offshore wind development is expected to occur off the coast of Eastern Nova Scotia, and landfall is expected in Goldboro… through a recently decommissioned natural gas pipeline corridor.”

For this reason, the note stated, “MODG is positioned to be a regional leader for offshore wind development and strive[s] to grow the industry in a way that sustainably benefits our residents, works with existing industry, while creating jobs, strengthening GDP and contributing to the global demand for green energy.”

Understanding how to strike the balance between existing industries, such as the fishery, and new offshore energy infrastructure has been a key consideration, Carroll said in an interview with The Journal last week.

“How can these two major industries co-exist here? Our council is on record saying that we’re not going to support a new industry by sacrificing an existing one. They have to thrive together.”

On this score, the delegation (Carroll and three other MODG staff; Deputy Warden Janet Peitzsche; Councillor Dave Hanhams; Ginny Boudreau of the Guysborough County Inshore Fishermen’s Association; Warden Amanda Mombourquette of Richmond County, who is co-chair of the Strait of Canso Offshore Wind Taskforce; Joe Brennan of the Strait of Canso Superport Corporation; Mike Uberoi of Melford Atlantic Gateway; and representatives of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources and Renewables) received a primer on best practices and, most importantly, lessons learned.

The Scottish Fishermen’s Federation (SFF), for example, told them that intensive oil and gas production in the North Sea had already caused some displacement to fishers, as had warming waters.

“[They] highlighted that the key to successful offshore wind development is to engage in meaningful marine spatial planning that is inclusive and honest,” the briefing note stated. “[They have] also set up a commercial arm to pursue opportunities for their fishers to [provide] surveying, guarding and other tasks required for [offshore wind] development.”

Earlier this month, The Journal reported delegate Ginny Boudreau’s sense that the SSF was genuinely interested in Canso fishers, in particular, learning from its mistakes. “They’ve had offshore wind for 15 years or more,” she said. “At the same time, their fishing industry is both inshore and offshore with multiple species, fleets, and gear sectors... Regarding wind, we are, in Guysborough, where they were. So, what can we learn from their experience?”

Other U.K. presenters included Net Zero Technology Centre, a not-for-profit organization committed to helping England and Scotland accelerate their development of new clean energy technologies; economic development agency Scottish Enterprise; training and innovation hubs 3t Training Services and ORE Catapult; Equinor, which is developing 3.6 GW of wind power in the North Sea’s Dogger Bank; and the Port of Tyne Port Authority, which is leveraging the renewable energy industry to re-establish itself as a hub for economic growth.

According to the briefing note: “The delegation learned about the magnitude and importance of underwater infrastructure that is required to build offshore wind and transmit the energy into the offtake markets... The Global Underwater Hub (GUH), the leading trade and industry development body for the U.K.’s underwater sectors, highlighted the need for multiple port facilities to manage the logistics of just the underwater infrastructure supply chain.”

Said Carroll last week to The Journal: “There is in Guysborough a natural corridor for bringing offshore wind power on shore right away and that’s the pipeline corridor from the Sable natural gas project. But what we saw in the U.K., is that it’s more than one port [involved]. It’s multiple ports that are needed for the offshore wind industry. So, we see the Melford area as being key [here]. Mulgrave will also play a big role going forward.”

He added: “We need newly developed infrastructure – everything from roads to wharfage – in our ports to cater to [our] industry. [We don’t currently have] the infrastructure, and we’re going to need more investment there.”

Mombourquette said the trip was “eye-opening.”

“The U.K. obviously has [many] years of experience in this field, but [they have also] been very interested in sharing their experiences and lessons learned. Some of the takeaways for me were that some of the safety training services and facilities that we have in our community now could definitely be repurposed, or expanded in their purpose... What we heard loud and clear is that if we wait to invest in our infrastructure the opportunity will pass us by... That kind of active inclusion and collaboration between industry and community seem to be a real theme of the trip,” she added.

As for next steps here in Nova Scotia, Carroll said, “I think we’re all going back to our own organizations with the knowledge that we got at this level. The majority of people who were on this trip will meet bi-monthly to advance the renewables file. That includes the provincial and federal governments and various local players. That’s happening now.”