Al Springer thumbs through the material he’s pulled off the Internet and becomes more alarmed at what he learns about the wind farm proposed for Mount Kathleen near Peachland.
As he sits at the table in his dining room, he reads page after page detailing the environmental destruction wind farms have left in their wakes throughout the world.
“There’s a lot of opposition to them in a lot of places,” Springer points out.
The Okanagan needs to look carefully at where these massive projects are to be allowed if they are to be built in the future, he contends.
“This is a new thing for our area, we don’t have any of these (windmills) and now’s the time to look at them because these things could sprout up all over,” Springer says.
He pores over photos showing windmill diameters the length of Boeing 747s and supporting towers taller than the Statue of Liberty.
“The blades are all about 150 feet long,” he notes.
And, he wonders how the B.C. government can even entertain the proposal.
But, the project is about renewable energy, according to the Vancouver-based consultant.
It’s about reducing green house gas emissions to produce power for B.C. Hydro in the future, stated a report from Natural Power Consultants Ltd.
The firm has a 31-page report detailing the project, prepared for Norwegian-based Fred Olsen Renewables Ltd, which wants to build the wind farm.
The company proposal calls for 65 windmills to be built.
But, Springer isn’t buying what the consultants are trying to sell in their report.
After attending a public hearing the company hosted this month, he looked into the project even more.
And he reviewed the consultant’s report, which appears on the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office’s website at www.eao.gov.bc.ca.
To find it he clicked on “project information centre” and selected “project list.”
The project is called Mount Kathleen Wind Park.
While the project proposes production of 160 Mega Watts of energy, Springer said the source would not be consistent like hydro, for example.
“One third of the time there’s no power because there’s no wind and about another third of the time they’re not getting the (maximum) amount of power they want,” said Springer.
The project is about the carbon credits the company can sell, says Springer.
He’s not opposed to alternative forms of energy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
But, he says the wind farm would come at too high a cost for a form of energy that is intermittent at best.
“The power is probably going to cost three times as much as the power we get from B.C. Hydro right now.”
And the energy can’t be stored, Springer adds.
“You don’t get it at the time of day you want it, like in summer when it’s hot and humid, and there’s no wind in the winter when it’s bitterly cold, and most of the time there’s no wind unless there’s a front going through.”
The wind farm would cover 10 square kilometres of land, and Springer says the sound produced by the tall towers would scare off all wildlife in the area.
“The trade-off isn’t worth it because these animals that live there now will move out because of the noises and all the different (activities),” he says.
The area is summer range for moose and deer, notes Springer.
He spoke from experience having hunted and hiked the area for a few decades now.
He believes the windmills could also impact on raptors, birds and bats.
“They don’t think of something coming at them at 150 miles per hour. Bats are really vulnerable too, (the rotors) they’ve killed lots of bats,” Springer says.
And the massive footprint required for the towers could impact snakes, toads and salamanders.
Natural Power Consultants Ltd. acknowledges in its report that six further studies of the environmental impacts would be necessary.
They would assess interference with bird and raptor nesting, migration and navigation and vegetation, animals and bats.
The report claimed the loss to habitat would be minimal during construction.
But it acknowledged that birds and bats could be subjected to possible collision with the wind mills due to interference with “ornithological receptors.”
It also recognizes that consultation with the Westbank First Nation would be required.
Springer’s concern about the consultant’s report, however, is that it is commissioned by the company.
“Why doesn’t the ministry of environment pay the biologist and then charge the company for whatever the biologist costs?” Springer asks.
The biologist would then be accountable to the public, not the company, he says.
Mount Kathleen Wind Park would be located on Crown land.
And, the proponent would use the Okanagan Connector’s Sunset Main exit as one possible access.
The route would continue on to Peachland Forest Service Road and then a gravel side road.
Another possible route could be Princeton Avenue through Peachland, to the Peachland Forest Service Road and to a gravel side road.
Either way the road would be massive and run along Headwaters Lakes, which is another concern for Springer.
“It would cut up the back side of the mountain. It would be a huge road that’s not even in existence today.” he says.
He says in order to accommodate the massive vehicles required to build and maintain the wind farm, a gravel road as wide as a four-lane highway would need to be built through the wilderness.
By Jason Luciw
Kelowna Capital News
25 March 2008
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