City-owned Epcor Utilities Inc. launched a new plan Monday to spread its wings into wind power in British Columbia, atop breezy highlands 500 kilometres northwest of Edmonton.
The proposed Quality Wind Project will erect 60 to 120 turbines on a windswept plateau near the mining town of Tumbler Ridge, on the eastern fringe of the Rocky Mountains, and hook them up to the B.C. electricity grid with 18 kilometres to 25 kilometres of new transmission lines.
The towering windmills will generate 100 megawatts to 200 MW with three-bladed rotors 77 metres to 90 metres in diameter. The giant fans will jut up into the sky on pillars 80 metres to 100 metres tall.
When stopped with a blade sticking straight up, the biggest wind power turbines are about three times the 45-metre height of Edmonton’s landmark High Level Bridge across the North Saskatchewan River.
The B.C. site, about 75 kilometres southwest of the Alaska Highway’s starting Mile Zero at Dawson Creek, is “a good wind resource,” Epcor says in a project application to the province’s environment ministry.
Potent breezes are documented by data from spinning wind speed recorders on a meteorological tower raised especially to investigate the remote area, Epcor spokesman Jay Shukin said.
The northern B.C. highlands are also often at their windiest in winter when power demand is greatest, Shukin added from an Epcor branch office in Victoria.
The location’s elevation ranges between 1,000 metres and 1,400 metres above sea level. Exposure to the wind is unobstructed by trees because the formidable northern climate stunts their height, indicate B.C. environmental studies.
Edmonton’s electricity and water utility made an opening move towards construction by filing an application that initiates a lengthy provincial environmental assessment.
The project schedule calls for a power supply agreement with B.C. Hydro and environmental approval by the end of 2009.
About 18 months of construction is planned in 2009-10.
No cost projections were disclosed.
The project’s size and windmill prices remain unsettled, making any forecasts now only “speculative” guesses, Epcor spokesman Shukin said.
A similar, but smaller Ontario project by Epcor, Kingsbridge on the windy shore of Lake Huron, cost $75 million for 22 windmills that make 40 MW.
Comparable equipment is sought in discussions with an array of potential suppliers, Shukin said.
However, prices of mostly European-made turbines are rising due to accelerating wind energy development in numerous countries, he added.
By Gordon Jaremko
12 February 2008
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