Nova Scotia government launches ambitious plan to develop offshore wind sector

·3 min read
Wind turbines are seen off the coast of Sussex in England in this file photo from 2017. Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston wants this province to get into the offshore wind business as soon as possible. (Mike Hewitt/Getty Images - image credit)
Wind turbines are seen off the coast of Sussex in England in this file photo from 2017. Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston wants this province to get into the offshore wind business as soon as possible. (Mike Hewitt/Getty Images - image credit)

Premier Tim Houston says it's time for Canada to catch up with other countries on offshore wind development and he wants Nova Scotia to lead that effort.

"Think of the coastlines that we have in this country and we have zero offshore wind production right now," Houston told reporters following an announcement in Dartmouth on Tuesday.

"I'm focused on changing that issue and I'm focused on Nova Scotia being a leader in changing that."

Houston announced the province's goal of offering leases for five gigawatts of offshore wind energy by 2030, with the aim of supporting the emerging green hydrogen sector.

For context, the generation capacity of the province's entire electricity grid is 2.5 gigawatts right now."It's ambitious, for sure, but it's completely possible," said Houston.

"We want to make that happen."

Projects intended to help green hydrogen sector

Although the province continues to pursue onshore wind projects to help meet its greenhouse gas reduction targets and increase the use of renewable energy sources, Tuesday's announcement is aimed squarely at what the premier described as "a race against the world" to develop a green hydrogen industry.

Wind turbines create electricity which is lost if it cannot be added to an energy reservoir. That's why proponents of green hydrogen support using offshore electricity to create hydrogen gas which can be stored, transported and then converted back into electricity using fuel cells or hydrogen-driven turbines.

Natural Resources and Renewables Minister Tory Rushton said the province is well positioned in that effort because of  pre-existing infrastructure and natural geographic advantages. Interest is concentrated on the Strait of Canso area, Rushton told reporters.

"There are natural deep harbours, existing industrial space and key connections to pipelines and transmission infrastructure," he said.

Regulatory changes required

The province hopes to issue the first call for bids in 2025, but needs a new regulatory regime provided by updated federal and provincial rules before that can happen.

Halifax MP Andy Fillmore said regulations currently administered by the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board (CNSOPB) are outdated and need to be changed to reflect contemporary energy technology, global energy needs, community licence and ecological concerns.

Fillmore said the federal changes should be tabled this fall and could be in place by next summer, although that's not a certainty.

One of the changes will be to rename the CNSOPB, said Fillmore, perhaps allowing it to regulate offshore wind development.

"I think they're very well positioned," he said.

'Enormous' untapped potential

David Timm, global head of public affairs for Northland Power Inc., a Canadian owner/operator of offshore wind projects, said Tuesday's announcement represents "a great start" to make the region competitive with other jurisdictions already involved in offshore wind development.

"This is on par with scales of projects in Europe that we're seeing and in Asia," he told reporters.

Timm said the untapped opportunity across the Atlantic region is "enormous." He said turbines currently being produced for offshore projects are in the 14-megawatt range and that technology is quickly evolving to make floating foundations that will work in deeper waters.

"Where this industry needs to go and the amount of green energy we need to effect the transition we need to make, we need to push out into those other resources."

Houston is scheduled to attend a wind energy conference in Germany later this month where he said he'll be promoting the region's potential for green hydrogen exports.

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