The president of a renewable energy engineering company is hoping to have wind power in the Nicola Valley by 2018.
“I’m here to let the community know that wind energy can work and that it’s being looked at in this neighbourhood,” said Martin Ince to a group of about 20 people last month at a chamber of commerce hosted meeting last month.
Ince is the president of M.K. Ince and Associates Ltd. (MKI), a Vancouver-based wind energy development company that has been operating north of Merritt for about seven years.
With projects located near Mamette Lake, Mount Guichon and on Mount Mabel, MKI has been undertaking wind resource assessments for the three projects on leased Crown land.
The intention is to build wind turbines that produce electricity to sell to BC Hydro, however, the Crown corporation says it’s simply not buying much power at the moment.
“Unless it’s through the Standing Offer Program (SOP),” said BC Hydro SOP manager Dina Matterson.
“We don’t need to buy any more, we’ve got enough right now,” she said.
The program is for clean energy projects that produce a maximum of 15 megawatts of electricity or less.
“That’s about five wind turbines,” Matterson said, noting this is currently the only program BC Hydro has for purchasing power from independent power producers.
The Merritt Green Energy project, by comparison, is a 30-megawatt initiative, which is going to burn wood waste to produce electricity to sell back to BC Hydro. That project, however, was set up in 2011 under a separate call for power.
MKI is looking to build about five wind turbines at each of the three locations, and each would require a SOP contract, Ince said.
Each wind turbine the company constructs would be 100 metres tall and generate about two megawatts of electricity. The turbines have a lifespan of about 25 years.
Ince said each of the three projects has the potential to power up to 5,000 homes.
Under SOP, developers apply for a guaranteed electricity purchase agreement if they meet the eligibility requirements of the program. The key requirements are that the energy must be clean and renewable, produce a maximum of 15 megawatts, and have all permits in place and First Nations consultation, Matterson said.
The SOP comes with a set price that varies on the region its located in, which Ince said makes wind energy projects difficult to make economical.
“But it’s possible to do it if you get the right turbines,” Ince said. “Turbines are getting more efficient and they can produce more power now.”
Currently, MKI has meteorological towers in the Merritt area in order to measure the amount of wind for the projects.
“We’re seeing more and more interest through the Standing Offer Program from wind producers, and that’s chiefly because the cost of wind technologies are coming down now to the point where it’s more economical,” Matterson said.
MKI has yet to apply to BC Hydro’s SOP, and before it does there are many other steps need to be taken.
One is conducting electrical interconnection studies, which essentially look at the impact a project has on the electrical system it connects to.
“A lot of it has to do with outages and contingencies,” Ince said.
Other work that still needs to be completed prior to applying to the program includes environmental assessments, First Nations consultation, archeological and traditional use studies, meteorological studies, long term energy predictions, and detailed financial modelling and cost financing.
Ince said what makes Merritt an attractive place isn’t that it’s a particularly windy area, but rather the amount of BC Hydro power lines to connect to.
“Interconnection is much more important than good wind,” Ince said.
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