If TimberWest has its way, the forest company could generate enough electricity to power between 70,000 and 75,000 homes by 2017 with dozens of wind turbines in the Sooke area.
TimberWest has partnered with EDP Renewables, a global company with a track record of building and managing wind farm projects, to establish the massive 300-megawatt project.
By comparison, three wind projects are in service in B.C. — all three in the Peace region. They provide a total of 388 megawatts.
The TimberWest project would see 100 to 150 turbines built for between $600 million and $750 million. It would dwarf the 99-megawatt Cape Scott wind farm near Port Hardy expected to be tied into the provincial grid later this fall. That project is expected to generate enough power for 30,000 homes.
TimberWest chief executive Brian Frank said in an interview the company “has been exploring the potential of the wind resource on our private lands on Vancouver Island for a number of years.”
“Based on the work we have done we’re confident we have a resource there that can support a large-scale investment and a large-scale wind project,” Frank said.
TimberWest initially planned to announce its Sooke project next year, but was spurred to act as B.C. Hydro is seeking comments before Oct. 18 on its draft Integrated Resource Plan, which was submitted to the province this summer. The plan lays out how Hydro proposes to meet growth in demand for electricity, and its recommendations include focusing on conservation and building the Site C hydroelectric project on the Peace River in northeast B.C.
“We found ourselves in a situation with a good project, a good resource close to load (where demand is) that was competitive and offered efficiencies to the B.C. Hydro grid, and we needed to go public to make sure Hydro, the government and the public knew there was this opportunity,” Frank said.
Ryan Brown, EDP Renewables’ Canadian director of development, said the Sooke project could have a huge impact on the grid. It’s a moderate wind resource, but it’s close to an area with high demand for electricity, he said.
“Wind technology, specifically low-wind-speed technology, continues to improve very quickly and machines with longer blades, and taller towers, are able to make use of moderate-wind-speed sites.”
It’s also windiest in the Sooke area in fall and winter, when demand for power is high, Brown said.
B.C. Hydro did not comment directly on the TimberWest project, but Hydro resource planning group senior engineer Magdalena Rucker said improved technology and lower costs mean wind projects have become more active in B.C.
“In the open call for power in 2006, three of the 38 projects were wind and 14 per cent of the energy was attributed to wind, and in the 2010 clean-power call six of the 27 projects were wind and represented almost half of the energy,” Rucker said.
TimberWest and EDP have signed a memorandum of understanding with the T'Sou-ke First Nation to look at potential partnerships.
Frank said there would be more than 350 construction jobs and as many as 50 permanent jobs.