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Squamish wind project dies down

After years of planning and tens of thousands of invested dollars, hopes of a wind energy system based in Squamish have been downgraded from full scale industry to mere demonstration project.

“We’re going to approach the (Squamish) Oceanfront (Development Corporation) and see if they’re interested in the project,” said Dan McRae of the Squamish Sustainability Corporation. “When we talk about a demonstration project, I think we’re talking a very small micro-scale project. We don’t know what size or anything, but there are strong winds on the oceanfront, and, if we could use some of that wind, it would be a neat attraction.”

Initially, Squamish’s gusty climate seemed to guarantee a profitable network of turbines. Alice Ridge, located in Alice Lake Park, played host to a meteorological tower as of September 2006. But winds were inconsistent. A year later, data showed driving gales for only half the year, a situation that strips the project of economic viability.

McRae waxed cautious about the demonstration project. “I would say the challenges are just as great as the opportunities. There’s wildlife concerns – it’s located right next to an estuary. There are plans ongoing for an oceanfront; another thing with the towers is their proximity to a built environment and how they fit into it. There are big issues in Germany with flicker, where turbines are placed between residents and the sun, and you get this flicker effect.”

Further, plans to court Squamish Oceanfront with a district energy system may split investment interests, especially given the size of project McRae is proposing. Just the same, he’ll be approaching developers in the near future with a pitch.

“It’s an interesting opportunity, but the reality is, if it’s going to happen, it’ll be very small scale.”

By Paul Carlucci

Pique newsmagazine

15 May 2008