Green renewable energy may soon be blowing into Summerland.
A wind farm project in the Mount Kathleen area 28 kilometres northwest of Summerland is being proposed by Natural Power Consultants and Fred. Olsen Renewables (Canada).
The nearly $100 million project would include up to 65 wind turbine generators, a substation, transformers and service centre and would transmit as much as 160 megawatts of energy.
Mount Kathleen was selected after testing on the site showed it had fairly sustained wind speeds adequate to power such a project, said Garry Hamilton, senior development manager for Natural Power Consultants.
It would be the first wind energy project in the Okanagan Valley, he said.
Still in its initial stages, the site is currently undergoing an environmental assessment that is expected to take until the end of the year. Natural Power is also consulting with the Okanagan Nation Alliance and Westbank First Nation – with whom they hope to partner – as well as provincial and regional governments on the project.
The public will also get a chance to view the proposed wind energy project at a public open house at the Peachland Elementary School gym March 12 from 6-9 p.m.
Hamilton said the biggest concerns with wind energy projects are usually visual impact, which this project would have little, as it is located far from any residential developments . Rather, he expects the environment will receive substantial attention from the public on the Mount Kathleen project.
As a company focused on the environment, protecting natural habitat is a priority for Natural Power, he said, noting that wind power projects typically have a small footprint on the landscape. However, the company will work with environmentalists to ensure any habitat disturbed by the construction of the project would be restored to its natural state.
He also conceded that the wind turbines could pose a risk to bird and bat populations as has occurred in other areas where wind farms have been established. Currently Natural Power and Fred. Olsen are monitoring bird migration patterns and bat flight paths to determine the potential for damage.
“Today it looks like where we are suggesting would have a minimal impact on birds and bats,” he said.
The company began investigating the use of wind as the best way to generate energy because it is a renewable source with proven success, said Hamilton, pointing out that Natural Power has been involved with renewable energy for 12 years and has been involved in the development of wind farm projects across Europe, Canada and the U.S. Fred. Olsen Renewables has also been involved in wind energy projects since 1996 with projects throughout Europe.
Furthermore, Hamilton said the Mount Kathleen Wind Park project fits with the B.C. energy plan to have 90 per cent of all electricity provided by clean renewable energy sources with zero greenhouse gas emissions. The project, which is being proposed on Crown land, would also be eligible for the 10-year rent relief the province has given to wind energy projects on Crown land.
Hamilton said the Mount Kathleen project is being proposed to the BC Hydro Clean Power Call, which is looking to acquire green energy projects. There would also potentially be consideration of interconnection with FortisBC and its substations in the Brenda Mine and Summerland areas.
By Tracy Clark
27 February 2008
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