A California utility’s plan to scoop green power from British Columbia and ship it south is attracting strong interest from a company with a huge wind-power resource on the central coast.
Katabatic Power says it has about 3,000 megawatts of potential wind-power resources at a 40,000-hectare Banks Island property near Kitimat.
That’s about twice the total amount of generating capacity that was accepted in BC Hydro’s 2006 call for power.
The company – with offices in Richmond and San Francisco – wants to develop its power “as fast as we can” and believes it can help B.C. become self-sufficient in electricity and trade power into U.S. markets.
Katabatic already has approval from BC Hydro to develop one wind power project in B.C., at Hays Island, and plans to submit the first phase of its Banks Island development, 700 megawatts of wind power, for Hydro’s 2007 call for power.
Total cost to develop Banks is estimated at $6 billion and Deutsche Bank AG has partnered with Katabatic to finance it, according to the wind farm developer.
In meetings last year and this year before the California public utilities commission, Katabatic supported a proposal by Pacific Gas and Electric Company to spend $14 million on a study looking at opportunities to buy green or renewable power from sources in B.C.
That proposal was approved late last week by the California commission, and comes shortly after the B.C. government announced a goal of making the province. energy self-sufficient by 2016 using green or zero-emission power – and developing surplus power for export.
The commission said “there are potentially viable British Columbia renewable resources that may be available for PG&E to develop or acquire.
“We find that PG&E has made a persuasive showing,” the commission added.
Vancouver lawyer David Austin, who has represented both independent power producers and citizen groups in hearings before the B.C. Utilities Commission, noted in an interview that B.C.’s aging transmission system may not have the capacity to carry additional export power.
“The fundamental problem has been, and remains, congested transmission on both sides of the border,” Austin said.
“Until this problem is solved, and it doesn’t appear it will be solved any time soon, no one is selling electricity on a long term basis to California.”
Katabatic chief operating officer Jonathan Raymond remains optimistic.
“A study group led by PG&E is looking at a few transmission pathways between British Columbia – including undersea cables – and down the coast,” Raymond said in an interview from the company’s San Francisco office.
“We’re working with any and all of those players to bring the product to market.”
One of those players could be Sea Breeze Power, which has authorization from the National Energy Board to run a high-voltage undersea transmission cable between Vancouver Island and Washington State. It also participated in the California deliberations.
An undersea cable would allow developers to circumvent many of the regulatory and land use issues that are expected to confront the BC Transmission Corporation as it upgrades the province’s existing land-based network of high voltage lines.
“Obviously BC Hydro is the logical off-taker for the first few phases of the project, and maybe the whole thing,” Raymond said. “As much as they are interested in getting wind power to get to self-sufficiency under their mandate, we are happy to help in any way we can as fast as we can.”
By Scott Simpson, Vancouver Sun
7 March 2007
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