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Some concerns aired on Summerland wind farm approval  

Credit:  by Dan Walton | Penticton Western News | Apr 16, 2015 | www.pentictonwesternnews.com ~~

British Columbia’s electrical grid will be given a boost of guilt-free energy upon the completion of a wind farm near Summerland.

BC Hydro announced on April 15 that the Summerland Wind Power Generation Project would be one of three new wind farms entering into the provinces electrical utility service.

“Wind technology is growing and advancing quickly,” said Penticton MLA Dan Ashton. “Big or small, each wind project in our province contributes to B.C.’s clean-energy future.”

The other two projects announced this week will see wind farms constructed near West Kelowna and Taylor. All three projects will be taken on by Zero Emission Energy Development’s (ZED) from White Rock.

According to ZED, the Summerland site will produce 15 Megawatts upon completion, which is enough power to supply around 2,500 homes.

“ZED intends to develop the project in order to supply clean, renewable, greenhouse gas-free power to BC Hydro,” reads a press release from the ZED website.

Based on the proposal put forth in 2013, the turbines will be 95 metres tall at the hub and 50-metre blades will be attached.

In finding the best locations to catch the wind, Ashton said that interest began swirling around the Summerland site many years ago while he was serving as the Chair of the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen.

“There was a lot of interaction with local government,” he said. “These companies were looking everywhere to find a source of reliable, consistent wind when they put test sites up and they make their decisions based on that.”

He said that test sites were also launched in the Similkameen Valley and near Keremeos.

Ashton said that an even flow of moderate wind is more valuable than sporadically strong winds. And having spent his whole life exploring the bush behind Summerland, Ashton has first-hand knowledge of the regions wind flow.

“What you want is a steady, consistent wind value, and apparently that’s what they found behind Summerland.”

Bob Handfield, past president of South Okanagan Naturalist Club, said that the club was taken by surprise upon hearing of the April 15 announcement.

“We recall the public hearings a few years ago and then there was nothing.”

Concerns from the naturalists primarily focused around the danger to migrating birds that the farm may pose.

“When the studies were first done there, the proponents of the project admitted that there were potential issues with migrating birds,” he said. “But we’ve heard nothing since then to know if they’ve addressed those concerns.”

Handfield said that not all wind farms are overly dangerous for migrating birds – the bulk of bird deaths are caused by poorly placed and ill-operated projects.

“Wind farms in bad sites are notorious for killing birds,” he said. “Others, in the right areas and operated properly, have a pretty good track record.”

He said that the club also worries about unintended consequences, perhaps from the construction of new roads leading to the site.

Handfield said that volunteers will be actively monitoring the wind farm’s progress.

Comparing the wind projects to the B.C.’s strong network of hydroelectric generation along the Kootenay River, Ashton said that the province’s production of wind energy is expected to grow for lifetimes, with emphasis on the plural.

“The world’s changing, and we’re so fortunate that we have hydro power, but now with wind and solar power coming on stream, that seems to be headed in a new direction,” said Ashton. “We’re getting away from burning (non-renewables). Wind farms are going to be with us for eons I’m sure.”

Bill Bennett, Minister of Energy and Mines, echoed a similar sentiment.

“In B.C., we are fortunate to have hydro reservoirs that enable us to integrate variable wind output into the system and provide firm energy supply.”

President and CEO of BC Hydro Jessica McDonald also lauded the reliability of hydro, but spoke of the need for more green energy options.

“In B.C., more than 95 per cent of the power produced each year is clean power,” she said. “New wind projects add to this total and further diversify the clean, renewable energy supply that powers our homes and economy.”

The project is expected to break ground in the late spring or early summer. It will require 18 months of construction, which will offer 15 to 80 contract employment opportunities. Once operational, about 10 permanent positions, full and part-time, will be needed for its 25-year expected lifespan.

The three new projects will add to the four wind generating farms that are currently operating throughout the province of B.C., in addition to another project in Tumbler Ridge which is under construction.

Source:  by Dan Walton | Penticton Western News | Apr 16, 2015 | www.pentictonwesternnews.com

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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