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Wind farm project planned for Helmer Lake

KAMLOOPS – A Kelowna businessman says he wants to erect a pair of wind farms between Kamloops and Merritt by 2020.

Martin Ince is gathering feedback for a proposed wind turbine project that would see a total of eight massive windmills built near Helmer Lake.

“There would be a total of eight turbines in the project. That’s essentially enough to power 10,000 homes or so in the area,” said Ince. “It’s a small project in some ways, but it’s large enough to power 10,000 homes, so it’s significant.”

The project would cost about $100 million, and though it is not subject to the provincial environmental assessment process, it does need to go through a number of regulatory hoops before construction can begin.

Ince says a big hoop is convincing BC Hydro to buy the power for its provincial grid.

“The power has to be sold to BC Hydro. They’re the only taker of the power. So we would need to get an Electricity Purchase Agreement from BC Hydro, and we still don’t have that. So that’s part of the process I’m going through, to get approvals for the project and then to get an Electricity Purchase Agreement from BC Hydro.”

“We would like to see it in operation in 2020. But it depends on what BC Hydro wants. They may not want the power in 2020, they may want it in 2021 or 2022. So it’s a bit of a waiting game.”

Ince says the project would be visible from the Coquihalla Highway, but would have minimal impact on the environment or the nearest residents.

“We’ve looked at impacts on birds and bats, which are probably the most important items that we need to look at. We also, though, look at sound impacts. The closest residence is about nine kilometres away from the turbines, so the impact sound would have on anyone is very negligible.”

Building wind energy projects is a capital-intensive venture, and Ince says it’s a labour of love.

“If you are in renewable energy, you have to do it for a reason other than making money. I’ve been involved with this for more than 15 years now. It’s just something I have to do and it’s very important from an environmental, climate change perspective. It’s not a normal business, that’s for sure.”