Wind turbines could be coming to mountaintops in the Central Okanagan.
A Vancouver company, Natural Power Consultants, has been given a licence to erect two 50-metre towers with wind-measuring devices on top of them.
Both sites will be on Crown land ““ one on Buck Mountain, between Lumby and Kelowna, and the other on Kathleen Mountain, above Peachland.
Company spokesman Mark Rogers said the testing equipment will record wind data for a minimum of a year before a decision is made on whether the sites are suitable for turbines.
The Okanagan Valley is one of the least windy sites in Canada, but Rogers says that can change drastically at higher elevations.
“The parallel I draw is that you can be in the Big White village and the wind won’t be blowing at all, but if you go to the top of Big White, there is a decent alpine wind resource.”
Wind is used to generate electricity all over the world, notably in the U.S., Denmark, Germany, Spain and Great Britain. In Canada, wind energy has been generated primarily in Quebec and Alberta.
B.C. Hydro says there are opportunities to use wind to generate electricity in this province, too.
However, some potential sites are in remote, mountainous locations that are far from the transmission grid and difficult to access. Also, turbines are best located on land with low or no vegetation rather than a location surrounded by trees.
Experts say there needs to be an average wind speed of 13 kilometres per hour to provide a viable source of electricity. A doubling of wind speed produces an increase of power by eight times.
Rogers says the key is not the strength of wind gusts, but rather a consistently steady and strong wind.
“You want your equipment to be running at capacity for at least 30 per cent of the time,” he said. “A heavy gust might mean you have to shut it down for safety reasons.”
Rogers said he would only be guessing at the wind conditions at the test sites.
“The only way to get accurate information is to monitor it, and that’s what we will be doing.”
He said the masts and equipment will be erected in about four weeks, weather permitting.
By Chuck Poulsen
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