U.K.-based developer Fred.Olsen Renewables is seeking to build 50 to 75 wind turbines on the summit of Mount George, 38 km southeast of Prince George.
The proposed Mount George Wind Park could have a capacity of up to 250 megawatts, Natural Power project development manager Nicole Tuzi said. Natural Power is a contract firm hired to develop the concept.
“We’ll be submitting to B.C. Hydro’s clean energy call. [But] it’s in the very preliminary stages,” Tuzi said.
Fred.Olsen Renewables currently operates three wind farms in Scotland and has three more under development. The company’s 164 megawatts of installed wind turbine capacity produce approximately 470 gigawatt hours of power per year.
According to B.C. Hydro statistics, one gigawatt hour will power approximately 100 homes for a year.
Fred.Olsen Renewables is examining a 5,000 hectare area of Crown land, approximately 1,450m to 1,750m above sea level, Tuzi said. The site is 13 km from B.C. Hydro transmission lines.
Tuzi said the site was selected because of the wind potential, accessibility via forestry roads and preliminary environmental assessment.
“It’s outside critical caribou habitat,” she said. “Natural Power is very committed to keeping wind energy green.”
In January the company filed an initial application with the B.C. government, and is in the process of developing the terms of reference for the B.C. environmental assessment process. The final plan for the site will likely be 95 per cent complete by August, she added.
Tuzi said the company is committed to working with the community, including the Lheidli T’enneh First Nation.
“We are looking at a partnership with them.”
Natural Power senior development manager Donald Spears said standing trees around the turbines will have to be cleared as part of the project. Trees can cause wind turbulence which causes wear on the turbines, he explained.
On a flat landscape, forest has to be cleared back 100 to 200m from the turbines, which are located approximately 300 m apart, he explained. However, on sloped landscape the cut area can be much smaller.
“Wind [power] can be a very good thing, environmentally. But wind [power] in the wrong place can have a negative effect,” Spears said.
Before developing a project, Natural Power looks at the impact on habitat, land stability, surface water flow and subsurface water flow, he said.
The most common impact on animals is on birds, he said.
“Birds and wind turbines can coexist quite happily, but you have to know what kind of birds you have,” he said.
In some wind farms birds of prey nesting nearby have had no problems, he said. However other birds, like geese, can collide with turbines if they’re along a migration route.
In addition, the developer has to consider the effect on the human landscape – broadcast signals, air traffic and aesthetics.
“The most effective consultation is when it’s two-way. There is rarely a case where an accommodation can’t be found,” Spears said.
The common three-blade turbine was developed partly because of its aesthetic appearance, he said.
“Overall, for their size and electricity output, they’re relatively quiet. But they do make a noise.”
Construction of a typical wind turbine involves digging a foundation pit three to four metres deep, pouring a 50m by 50m steel-reinforced concrete foundation, covering the foundation with dirt and installing the turbine in several huge pieces.
“That foundation is like a tree root. It makes sure the turbine can’t move,” he said
Once the foundation is installed, the turbine can be erected and producing power within a week.
A wind farm the size of the one proposed would create 15 or more full-time jobs, he said.
“Typically you’re looking at a crew of 12 people who work at the site day-to-day.
“You also have staff who work off-site – do accounts, wind analysis, ecological work.
“Typically for 75 turbines, you might have two-three full-time ecologists.”
By Arthur Williams
15 February 2008
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