Soon the Fly Hills will be adorned with a 150-foot-tall pole that might lead to a new source of power for B.C.
Natural Power Consultants Ltd., a Scotland-based company which set up shop in Canada about a year ago, will be putting up a metal meteorological tower in the Fly Hills west of town in the next four weeks. The tower, six inches in diameter and to be painted orange and white under aviation regulations, will measure wind speeds.
“Right now we’re at the very, very early stages,” emphasizes Mark Rogers, business manager for Natural Power Consultants.
He said the tower will be in place for a year, possibly two, to see if there is sufficient wind for commercial purposes. The company will also do preliminary ecological work, such as investigating bird migration paths, to see what kind of ecological issues there might be.
“Wind resources tend to be the easiest part to figure out,” Rogers said.
Along with the Salmon Arm tower, the company will have seven other towers throughout B.C.
“We usually look for winds in excess of seven metres per second, average ““ that’s worthwhile for us to look at. It’s just one of many factors we look for.”
Locations in B.C. besides Salmon Arm include one near Peachland, one between Vernon and Kelowna, a number of sites in the Kootenays and a few sites near Prince George. He said research to choose the sites included a windpower study commissioned by BC Hydro as well as the Canadian Wind Energy Atlas.
Although many places in the province are windy, not all are close to transmission lines or populations.
The meteorological tower contains a cellular interface, so the wind speed information can be downloaded via cell phone.
“It doesn’t need much operator input,” he says.
If the company does determine that the Fly Hills would be a viable location to harness wind power, and that ecological and other factors would allow it, the company would still have to wait for BC Hydro to make their next call for power and accept the company’s proposal.
“Being honest, the quickest anything would happen would probably be a four- to five-year process, there are so many steps.”
If a wind-power project did go ahead, it would involve the construction of a wind farm.
“There would be construction jobs and ongoing maintenance jobs,” Rogers said.
As for the power created, it would be sold to BC Hydro or another utility and then fed into the power grid.
“Right now, B.C. imports as high as 15 per cent of its power from the U.S. and Alberta. B.C. is not self-sufficient in power anymore,” he said, noting the Okanagan is the fastest growing portion of the province and will continue to have increased demand for power.
B.C. currently has a 50 per cent clean power policy, he said. BC Hydro just held a call for power, with most approvals going to renewal projects ““ but two large coal projects also received approvals.
Natural Power Consultants has been in Scotland for 11 years and has constructed 14 wind farms in the United Kingdom.
In Canada, provinces such as Quebec and Manitoba have been aggressive in bringing on more wind energy, Rogers said, pointing out that wind power is most plentiful when hydro-electric power isn’t.
“When the wind blows the hardest, usually over winter, is when B.C. needs the most power and when hydro-electric is not at its full capacity because the snow is still up in the hills.”
By Martha Wickett, Observer Staff
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