The Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) is calling on the British Columbia government to look at wind energy and consider it as an alternative to a proposed hydropower project meant to help meet future electricity needs.
The Joint Review Panel has released a new study on Site C, a 1.1 GW hydro project proposed by utility BC Hydro. CanWEA BC Regional Director Nicholas Heap says the panel has done a thorough job of assessing a wide range of impacts, both positive and negative, regarding the Site C project.
He says the panel recognizes Site C as a zero-emission facility and finds that a number of assessed environmental impacts would not be significant if recommended mitigation actions are implemented.
However, the panel also highlights areas where Site C would cause "significant adverse effects" on a range of other environmental issues, including fish and fish habitat, valley bottom wetlands, several threatened or endangered species of birds and bats, and on "visual resources."
Of equal value to this environmental impact assessment, Heap adds, is the panel's identification of critical information gaps that prevented it from reaching a broader conclusion on whether the Site C project is the best option for expanding electricity supply.
"Clearly, we need better numbers for Site C, and more analysis of other low-cost electricity supply options that can be brought on incrementally and at the appropriate scale to meet our future needs, " he says.
Heap adds that with rapid technology improvements and lower turbine costs, BC Hydro's own analyses indicate that wind energy now comprises the bulk of lowest-cost renewable energy generation opportunities.
"Wind is zero-emission, low-impact renewable energy generation that enjoys strong support from First Nations and British Columbians," he explains. "Wind is already producing enough electricity in the province to power every household in northern BC, and there are lots of additional low-cost, low-impact resources identified and ready for construction."
Heap says the recommendations of the panel call for better information and more informed outcomes.
"CanWEA and the wind energy industry in BC will be working with BC Hydro and the provincial government in the months ahead to ensure that all viable options – including wind – are thoroughly assessed so that the province's next-generation assets really do offer the greatest benefit at the lowest economic and environmental cost to ratepayers and to all British Columbians."
Earlier this year, Heap spoke with NAW about BC's current wind power market and future hurdles. That article is available here.Â