Wind power projects are ploughing ahead in B.C., despite the Canadian Wind Energy Association’s (CanWEA) decision to back away from the province in the short-term.
In fact, Boralex, the company proposing what would be the province’s largest wind farm about 40 kilometres southeast of Tumbler Ridge, says CanWEA’s decision won’t affect their project one bit.
The way CanWEA announced it was backing away from B.C. didn’t go over well in Victoria, according to Boralex. But a Memorandum of Understanding in place between the provincial government and another wind energy association it is a member of, Clean Energy BC, means the company’s $480 million, 80 wind turbine, 200 - 350 megawatt project to is safe.
“Clean Energy BC is going to fill the role for us and (CanWEA backing out) won’t really have an impact on us at all,” Alistair Howard, director of project development told the Alaska Highway News.
However, the short-term outlook for wind energy still doesn’t look great in the province, he admitted, with no call for power from BC Hydro expected for a number of years.
“Honestly, maybe not in the next two, four or five years is the future great for renewables in B.C.,” he said, “but for sure in the longer term — 10 or 15 years (it looks good).”
The conversation at a provincial and federal level around energy in the future is about reducing greenhouse gas emissions, Howard added. In that context, projects like Red Willow will be needed.
“That’s why we’re working on Red Willow (now) because you can’t just all of a sudden decide to build a wind farm. It’s a long process,” he said.
Red Willow has been moving through procedural steps towards environmental approval for two years.
“It’s going to take another couple of years before it’s ready from a regulatory perspective,” Howard said. “That’s a five year time horizon already. We just want to position the project to be there when the load is needed.”
Once issued, the environmental certificate would be good for five years, with an option to renew for another five after that.
Boralex could start construction on a much smaller wind project near Tumbler Ridge this August.
The contract was finalized with BC Hydro in December, Howard says, through its Standing Offer Program.
Dubbed the Moose Lake wind project, its four or five turbines will produce 15 megawatts of power and tie into the grid at the same point as the Meikle Wind Energy project - a $400 million 185 megawatt project led by Pattern Wind Energy Group LP that started construction last spring.
“We started on the permitting of (the Moose Lake) project about three and a half years ago,” Howard said. “It’s tough to build a wind project on that scale and make it work economically.”
On top of Moose Lake, Boralex has yet another wind energy project that is in the contract cue at BC Hydro. Howard says he hopes it’ll proceed a year or two behind Moose Lake.
As for Red Willow, the company has moved the goal posts on its projections for construction, from full operation in 2018, to beginning construction that year.
That could change again.
“I wouldn’t say for sure in 2018 that there is going to be demand for it,” Howard said. “Load projections are tough.”
And in all likelihood, CanWEA will return too.
“Their short term opportunity is in Alberta and Saskatchewan and that’s where they need to focus their recourses,” Howard added. “I think over the long term, we’re well provided for by Clean Energy BC and if there is an opportunity that arises, I think CanWEA will return.”