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Companies explore wind farm possibilities  

A number of permits are being sought by companies looking to investigate potential wind energy projects in the Prince George area.

One of those companies, Natural Power Consultants, is hoping to build a wind park at Mount George near Tabor Mountain. The company’s senior development manager, Donald Speirs, spoke with The Citizen Wednesday before lecturing at UNBC about wind energy planning from an industry perspective, and about Mount George in particular.

“I would say it’s (Mount George) on the larger size, but I think it’s pretty consistent with what wind farms in general now are looking at. It’s certainly not a small scheme. The smaller schemes tend to be under 30 megawatts,” said Speirs, who hails from Scotland, where Natural Power has provided consultancy services on numerous projects.

If it proceeds past the environmental assessment stage, the company will install at least 50 wind turbines at Mount George, which could potentially yield 250 megawatts of power.

Like all wind energy proposals, the project poses certain environmental challenges, one of which is bird populations. According to Speirs, the Royal Society of Prevention to Birds in Scotland has not noted any “ill effects in relation to wind farms and birds.

“The reason for that is because of appropriate siting,” he said. “That’s why it’s so important that we do the surveys before we build the scheme so that we understand what birds are in the area and where they’re flying, because they will follow a consistent pattern. And then we can design the scheme so that you’re not going to have situations where birds are going to be flying into the turbines. Because it is a risk. It’s a risk that we have to take at the design stage.”

He said different species respond in different ways to wind turbines. In Scotland, for instance, ground-based birds such as grouse are not affected, but windmills might infringe on the territory of raptors, though he notes the latter are “very adaptable and clever” and know to stay away from turbines.

“Some of the raptors are even cleverer than that and they like to actually use the turbines to play around in,” he said.

“I think the key message is that wind farms and bird populations can co-exist. It’s a question of good environmental assessment, and good mitigation as well so that you don’t get a situation where they’re in conflict.”

The Mount George wind park could produce 20 to 25 jobs in terms of site operation and management during the lifetime of the project, along with 50 to 75 jobs during a three- to five-year construction phase.

“There’s another level of jobs which is the supply chain aspect and manufacturing and that sort of thing,” Speirs said. “A lot of the long-term jobs created with wind energy are high-value jobs. That’s a secure basis on which other economic development can latch onto.”

By Scott Stanfield
Citizen Staff

Prince George Citizen

14 February 2008

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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