Hydropower, Monitoring, Project Development, Wind Power

BC Developers Racing in the Wind

In April of 2006, the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) announced that Canada’s total installed wind capacity had reached the 1,000 megawatt (MW) milestone. Virtually every province and territory in the country has some degree of wind power in place or under construction, but for two.

British Columbia, long considered a bastion of environmental stewardship, is one of the last regions to add wind power to its energy mix (New Brunswick is the other). In August of last year, three wind developers were chosen to receive 25-year contracts in BC Hydro’s Call for Tender process. Two projects are located in the excellent wind zones of the Peace River Country, near Dawson Creek on the BC/ Alberta border. The other is on the Northwest coast near Prince Rupert.

Aeolis Windpower/Peace River Renewable Energy Co-operative/AltaGas Bear Mountain Windpark

The 3-way partnership between the new wind power firm, community energy co-operative, and large natural gas income trust is a promising initiative. It is the most advanced of a number of Aeolis project sites, including up to 57 two megawatt Enercon turbines that will generating a nameplate capacity of 120 MW. Community support for the project has been strong, due in part to the involvement of the Peace Energy Co-op, which boasts almost 300 members, from different parts of the country.

“The ability for local residents to have a direct stake in the project, as well as having a contact office in the community to handle questions has made a big difference towards acceptance of the project,” says Valerie Gilson, Peace Energy’s executive director.

It was the co-operative that got the ball rolling for the Bear Mountain project in 2003, when they picked up BC Hydro’s wind monitoring license for the site. A year later they partnered with Aeolis, who has spearheaded the bulk of the permitting approval process. Construction is slated to begin this month, and the farm should be generating power one year from now.

AltaGas was brought on board as the financing arm of the operation, and currently holds ownership of the project.

Earth First Energy/ Dokie Wind Project

Earth First Energy’s first wind power project is also located in BC’s Peace River Country, near the community of Chetwynd. The Dokie Wind Project is slated at a total of 300 (MW) and built through a joint venture between Earth First and Creststreet Capital. Its completion date is scheduled for 2010. In 2006 BC Hydro awarded Earthfirst a contract for the project’s first phase, which is 162 MW. The contract is for up to 536 gigawatt hours (GWh) per year. The remaining capacity will be tendered in BC Hydro’s upcoming ‘Clean Power Call‘, currently set for spring 2008. Ron Percival, president of Earthfirst, says the company plans to begin construction in the coming winter months, with completion of the first phase in late 2009.

Mt. Hays Limited Partnership

A project of Katabatic Power, a company based in Richmond BC and San Francisco, the Mt. Hays site is located near the ocean in the Province’s Northwest corner. At a value of $55 million, the Mt Hays project is comprised of 17 1.5 MW turbines (the AAER-A 1500s), and is the smallest of the three projects, at 25.5 MW. Power developments in BC under 50 MW do not require the same level of oversight by the province. This particular site already has road and grid access in place as well.

CEO Tony Duggleby says their relationship with the Prince Rupert area has been very positive overall. “We’ve had 75 to 100 people to several open house meetings, people who have been involved all along the way.” Mt Hays is located about four kilometers from the community. Final permitting requirements for this project were submitted in October, with construction anticipated to begin in early spring 2008.

Even More Coming Soon

Another contender is Seabreeze Power, which in 2004 received the province’s first ever Environmental Assessment Certificate for a proposed wind power project. The approval was for their 99 MW Knob Hill site on Vancouver Island’s northern tip. The company plans to submit a bid for this project in BC Hydro’s upcoming ‘Clean Power Call’, to be issued in the first half of 2008. Finally, Nai Kun Wind Development is working in partnership with The Haida First Nations to plan and develop an ambitious 5-phase project off-shore that is projected to have a nameplate capacity of over 1,000 megawatts.

Clearly British Columbia intends to transform from one of the laggards in Canadian wind power to one of its leaders. Its world-famous wind zones will soon be harnessed and tested for their real-time performance.

Randyn Seibold is a student, freelance writer and renewable energy entrepreneur. Living on British Columbia’s West Coast for the last 15 years, he is an active member of the BC Sustainable Energy Association, and has worked for four years as an electrical apprentice. Renewable Recruits is a proprietorship focused on informing students about renewable energy training opportunities, and recruiting qualified people to RE developments in Western Canada.