Three British Columbia wind projects came up winners in BC Hydro's 2006 Open Call for Power when BC Hydro announced its list of successful bidders for contracts. The awards, representing long-term purchase agreements with an average term of 30 years, include 29 hydro, three wind, two biomass, two waste heat and two coal-biomass projects.
When the projects are complete, likely in 2008 and 2009, Dokie Wind Energy Inc., Bear Mountain Wind Limited Partnership and Mount Hays Wind Farm Limited Partnership will be providing just over 325 MW of wind power to the BC Hydro grid.
While B.C. is one of the few provinces left in Canada in which wind is not yet part of the electricity mix, the province and developers have been working behind the scenes for many years, measuring wind data and defining a provincial wind policy.
‘The three successful wind projects awarded contracts in the current (call for power) are all high-certainty projects, and I would suggest they are among the first in the province. So it is just-in-time delivery – it probably couldn't happen any faster,’ says Ron Percival, president and chief operating officer of Dokie Wind Energy Inc., a joint venture between Earth First Energy Inc. of Victoria and Creststreet Capital Corp.
Dokie Wind is building a 180 MW wind farm on Dokie Ridge in B.C.'s Peace River region near Chetwynd.
‘There is no way to shortcut the process and have a viable wind industry,’ Percival says. ‘The B.C. government has been exemplary in creating the opportunity for the private sector to explore, develop and advance renewable wind projects towards development opportunities.’
BC Hydro, too, he says, has made substantial efforts to support the wind option in its future electricity mix, and to understand wind characteristics, shaping power cells so wind can be integrated into the system and compete fairly with other fuels.
‘This process is ongoing and continuing to improve,’ Percival says.
The Dokie Wind project received provincial environmental certification in early August. The project's construction schedule plans installation of Canadian Renewable and Conservation Expense (CRCE) turbines in 2008, with infill turbines following in 2009, dependent upon the B.C. Transmission timeline for the system upgrades necessary to facilitate transmission interconnection.
The Bear Mountain Wind Park, a 120-MW project in the northeastern Peace River region near Dawson Creek, is the result of a limited partnership between Vancouver Island-based Aeolis Wind Power Corp., AltaGas Income Trust and local Dawson Creek community Peace Energy Cooperative.
At Mile Zero on the Alaskan Highway, atop a north-south ridge of Crown land, the Bear Mountain Wind Park has a distinctive, unidirectional wind flow. ‘The wind up in the Peace is perpendicular with the ridge, with the wind coming from the west/southwest,’ says TJ Shur, director of external relations for Aeolis Wind Power. ‘It's a very unique scenario, with well over 60 percent of our energy coming from one direction.’
In order to take best advantage of the linear wind resource, Aeolis, the development arm of the project, will be building a single line of turbines along the ridge. The project will employ Enercon E82s, which were secured by contract prior to bidding Bear Mountain in BC Hydro's open call for power. With its environmental assessment only weeks away from filing, Shur says the partnership hopes to break ground in late 2007, with full COD in 2009.
The third project chosen was smaller in scale. Though Katabatic Power's Mount Hays project near Prince Rupert is just over 25 MW in size, the company's Richmond, B.C., and San Francisco-based developer is looking at it as practice, a lead-in to its longer-term plans for what Jonathan Raymond, Katabatic's chief operating officer, calls a ‘much larger’ project on nearby Banks Island, on the mainland side of the Hecate Strait on the North Coast of British Columbia. (Katabatic holds development rights to the northern half of the island.)
Raymond says Prince Rupert has all the elements essential for wind development: wind data back as far as 2001, relatively easy interconnection into the system, deep-sea port access, a railway line, and plenty of skilled workers.
‘We looked at this project starting back in 2003,’ he says.
And while British Columbia doesn't require a full environmental assessment because the project is under the 50 MW threshold, Raymond says Katabatic Power has gone ahead with a full assessment in any case, in order to qualify for federal funding (WPPI or a similar program) expected to be announced in the fall.
‘We'd like to break ground in May, with a COD date as early as October 2007, and no later than October 2008,’ Raymond says.
BC Hydro's approval of three wind projects within the 38 projects chosen, Aeolis Power's Shur says, ‘was really a unique demonstration that wind energy can compete with other fuel types. Particularly with British Columbia's Class 1 and Class 2 winds, primarily Class 1, we are looking at an environment where we can compete on a large scale.’