GOLDBORO — Nova East Wind – a partnership between DP Energy and SBM Offshore – publicly announced their plans last month to be one of the first offshore windfarm developments in Nova Scotia with an open house in Goldboro, Guysborough County, and a press conference in Halifax.
The proposed project, touted as the first floating offshore wind project in Canada, would consist of 20 to 25 wind turbines 25 kilometres off Golboro, which will produce 300 to 400 megawatts (MWs) of power that will be directly supplied to the Nova Scotia Power grid for domestic use.
The proposed windfarm, which has an estimated price tag of $1 to $1.5 billion, would encompass 70 to 100 square kilometres, with a footprint of approximately one hectare per turbine, at depths of 100 to 200 metres. And, if permitting and leasing go according to plan, the project will be operational by 2030.
The Journal spoke to DP Energy Director and CEO Simon De Pietro at the Goldboro open house about the project. One of the first things he emphasized was that this project is meant to facilitate the de-carbonization of Nova Scotia, creating green energy for domestic use; not for export nor for the production of green hydrogen.
“If we want to try and meet the [provincial] 2030 [green energy] target, we’re going to have to start doing something immediately. So, we’ve been flying planes [surveying] over quite a big area, which is probably four or five times the area that we would need. We think it’s a good site.”
Other companies may also think the Goldboro area is a good site, but seabed leases have yet to be granted by the province for any offshore windfarms. The Journal asked De Pietro what the company’s ‘plan B’ was, if the lease they were seeking near Goldboro was denied, and why their proposal would stand above any others.
“In terms of what’s plan B, that’s a very good question,” he said. “I’m working on plan A … I think we’re very focused on what we do and what we do well, which is identifying the right site…we’ve been developing projects for 30 years and either we’ve been really lucky or we’re kind of OK at doing it.”
De Pietro said the project had been on the drawing board for at least two years, adding, “From start to finish for a project like this, it would be easily seven, eight years before you see it built and spinning. But our goal is pre-2030 as our plan.”
Asked why now is the right time to start publicizing the project, before the province has granted any seabed leases and regulations for offshore wind are not expected until 2025, De Pietro answered, “Because I think the sooner the better. We know more about what’s going on right now; we’ve done some survey work. We’re comfortable with the scenario that we think will work from an environmental perspective. And obviously, the sooner you start talking the better…And we need to have feedback in order to design a project. So, we need coastal communities, fishing communities, we need First Nations; we need to understand everybody, talk to everybody. Find out what their views are; some will be positive, some will be less positive.”
As for the project’s first open house, De Pietro said he’d spoken to some fish harvesters who raised concerns about displacement, but it was very early in the project and he anticipated many more discussions around the fisheries, the views from coastal communities, navigation, community benefits and jobs.
“We think it’s a good project. We’re keen to actually get it built and spinning,” concluded De Pietro.
One of the people who attended the Goldboro open house was Bill Bond, a well-known fisherman from Canso.
Bond told The Journal he was concerned about the proposed project’s impact on the fishing industry, “especially where they have it marked [the project seabed lease area in lobster fishing area 31B]…It’s on a very rich part of the halibut and snow crab grounds, especially snow crab.”
He added, “So, they say they’re willing to work with the fishermen; that’s what they said. It’s going to come regardless, something’s going to happen. I honestly don’t think we can stop that, so we have to work with them.”
Ginny Boudreau, manager of the Guysborough County Inshore Fishermen’s Association, also attended the Goldboro open house and spoke to The Journal after the event about the association’s concerns; first and foremost is fishing access.
“We are going to lose access to whatever space they take. And, when they say we can continue fishing in and around the windfarm, we will be able to trap fish or fixed gear. So, if you snow crab you might be able to, that all depends on how long your lines are, how much movement you have in your traps, how deep the water is; a whole bunch of things. Because these are free floating [turbines] but they still have anchors,” said Boudreau adding that due to the cables required to transfer energy onshore, she didn’t foresee any form of dragging or trawl fishing taking place within the windfarm boundaries.
She said, “They’re sort of comparing a wind turbine to the oil and gas industry. The oil and gas industry’s footprint, as far as loss of access to specific space on the ocean, is nothing compared to the space that these windfarms are going to need.”
Asked what fisheries she anticipated would be the most impacted by the proposed windfarm, Boudreau said, “The fisheries that will be impacted are snow crab and halibut…the exact location they have not identified, so I don’t know about the sea cucumber because they haven’t pinpointed an area. The seabed lease has not been granted.”
The association is also concerned about the growth of the offshore windfarm industry, and the consequent mitigation of impacts on the environment and the fishing industry. Will displaced fish harvesters received compensation? Will the turbines impact the ecosystem in the area, drawing in new species and repelling existing ones? These are examples of questions yet to be answered.
Boudreau said there are many unknowns and not much time to fill in the knowledge gaps in such a way as to reassure fishers that their livelihoods are secure.
For the proponents of the Nova East Wind Project, August was just the beginning of their public engagement and stakeholder consultation process, which will help determine the final site selection.
The Nova Scotia government stated in the Nova Scotia Offshore Wind Roadmap released earlier this year that access to seabed rights suitable for the first commercial scale project(s) under provincial jurisdiction could be granted as early as 2024.
By Lois Ann Dort, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Original Published on Sep 06, 2023 at 05:07