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Victoria approves wind-power project in Peace River district

A controversial $240 million wind-power project to be constructed on top of Bear Mountain in B.C.’s Peace River region has been granted provincial approval.

According to a government media release issued Monday, B.C. Environment Minister Barry Penner and Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources Minister Richard Neufeld made their decision to grant an environmental assessment certificate to the project proponent, Bear Mountain Wind Limited Partnership, following a review of a project assessment conducted earlier this year by the provincial Environmental Assessment Office (EAO).

The 120 megawatt project consists of building up to 57 wind turbine generators on the top of Bear Mountain ridge, located about 16 km southeast of Dawson Creek.

New roads into the area will also be constructed, as well as an underground, medium-voltage electrical network connecting the turbines to a substation, a substation with staging area, an overhead 138-kV transmission line connecting the project to the BC Hydro grid, on-site public signage, and off-site interpretive and operations centres in Dawson Creek.

The EAO assessment report concluded that effects from the project will be within “acceptable levels”, subject to adherence to the application’s design components and implementation of mitigation measures and commitments agreed to by the proponent, which is a partnership among the Victoria-based Aeolis Wind Power Corporation, Alberta-based AltaGas Income Trust, and the Dawson Creek-based Peace Energy Cooperative.

The environmental assessment certificate contains 44 commitments that the proponent must implement throughout the various phases of the project, including:

– Abiding by all applicable provincial regulatory policies, including the wind turbine generator sound policy contained in the May 2007 British Columbia Crown Land Use Operational Policy for Wind Power Projects;

 – Implementing a raptor, migratory bird and bat monitoring program to limit turbine collision and mortality;

 – Maintaining a community feedback mechanism in Dawson Creek to provide public access to available project information.

Residents of the area have publicly stated their concerns for the project, including low-frequency sound generated by the turbines and the siting of power transmission wires.

A phone call to Doug Keith, spokesman for the residents’ group, the Community For Responsible Wind Power, was not returned.

According to the province, if completed, the project will help reduce British Columbia’s reliance on imported electricity, without producing greenhouse gas emissions, by generating enough electricity in an average year to meet the needs of 38,000 homes.

The proponent is now waiting the results of a federal environmental assessment review, which was triggered after the company applied for federal assistance.
The proponent must also obtain the necessary provincial licences, leases and other approvals before the project can proceed.

More information on the environmental assessment certificate can be found at www.eao.gov.bc.ca.

By Darah Hansen

The Vancouver Sun

20 August 2007