After being shut out from two rounds of electricity purchase agreements (EPAs) awarded by BC Hydro in March, Aeolis Wind Power’s Thunder Mountain project near Tumbler Ridge is once again generating interest.
With the Sukunka power substation between Tumbler Ridge and Chetwynd set to become a new power hub in the BC Hydro grid, the project may have a much stronger business case than it had during the 2008 Clean Power Call.
“There has been a major upgrade in the South Peace with BC Hydro transmission, for supplying the energy needs of the gas industry, in the Montney area particularly, near Dawson Creek,” said Aeolis president and CEO Juergen Puetter. “There’s a lot of new load coming online.”
“We only really need to upgrade the power line between Sukunka and Tumbler Ridge,” he said. “We no longer have to go all the way to the (W.A.C. Bennett) dam.”
The project, located 45 kilometres south of Tumbler Ridge, appeared to be a good proposition: a mammoth 1,500 megawatt project laid across two long, flat-topped ridges running perpendicular to the prevailing southwesterly wind.
With support from several area First Nations, a secured a license of occupation, and an environmental assessment (EA) certificate approved in December 2009, it appeared to be a strong candidate amongst the 68 submissions under the province’s power call.
That application is now dead, said Puetter, but other arrangements are possible. Aeolis has split the project up into a northern and southern section, and plans to announce a new partner in the project early in 2011.
“It was just too big to do all at once,” said Puetter. “The world’s largest wind project so far is 820 megawatts or so,” he said. That means Thunder Mountain could become the world’s largest wind project.
“We’re splitting it into two now – each one would still be gigantic by anybody’s standards.”
The environmental assessment (EA) certificate and license of occupation will still apply for the northern section, while new applications will be entered for the southern section.
“We’re not really planning to make a new submission to BC Hydro,” added Puetter. “We’re working outside the BC Hydro process, on other alternatives. I can’t say much more than that.”
Upcoming BC Hydro announcements on upgrades should also open new opportunities for the project, he said.
“Despite the doom and gloom that BC Hydro has forecast there’s no growth in B.C.’s energy picture, we are of the view that there’s going to be a very dramatic growth in energy demand in B.C., due to the natural gas developments of the Horn River and the Montney,” he said. “That gives rise to opportunity for more renewable energy projects.”
Puetter said the project would be “a long-term provider of employment and would really put Tumbler Ridge on the map, in an even bigger way than it is now.”
Other wind projects around Tumbler Ridge continue to progress. Finavera Renewables won EPAs for four separate wind projects in the Peace in March, while Capital Power’s Quality Wind Project near Tumbler Ridge was also approved.
Work on the Quality wind project is continuing through the winter, while Finavera Renewables have now submitted environmental assessment applications for two of their projects, including one in Tumbler Ridge. If their assessments are approved, both of those projects are expected to begin construction next year.
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