A Fresh Breeze for Wind Energy in B.C.

Wind Turbine in Forest

By Maura Forrest

April 23, 2015

B.C. will soon be home to three new wind farms, including the first two wind developments in the Okanagan.

Last week, White Rock-based Zero Emission Energy Developments Inc. signed purchase agreements with B.C. Hydro for the three farms. Construction will start this spring or summer, and will continue for 18 months.

Together, the developments will generate 45 megawatts of wind capacity, bringing the province’s total wind capacity to 700 megawatts. They will produce enough electricity to power 14,000 homes.

“Wind developments integrate naturally into our system – we already have big hydro dams that can store power and generate firm electricity when the wind is not blowing,” said Jessica McDonald, president and CEO of BC Hydro, in a press release. “In B.C., more than 95 per cent of the power produced each year is clean power. New wind projects add to this total.”

The two Okanagan wind farms will be located west of Kelowna and southwest of Summerland. The third farm will be in northeastern B.C., near Taylor. During construction, the projects will employ up to 150 people.

B.C. currently has four operational wind farms that sell power to BC Hydro. They are all much larger than the new developments – the smallest is a 99-megawatt farm on Vancouver Island. A fifth development, the 185-megawatt Meikle Wind project near Tumbler Ridge, is under construction.

The new agreements were signed under BC Hydro’s Standing Offer program, which streamlines the procurement process for small clean energy projects.

And it’s no accident that these latest agreements focus on small operations. After the B.C. government approved the Site C dam last December, Energy Minister Bill Bennett said the province won’t need to consider more renewable energy for the next few years.

B.C. is “not going to purchase electricity that we don’t need,” Bennett said in an interview with the Provinceearlier this month.

Last December, two wind farm proposals near Tumbler Ridge were shelved after Site C was approved. A third major wind project in the same area is moving ahead, with construction slated to begin in 2017, but it has yet to obtain a purchase agreement from BC Hydro.

Still, Site C is probably the province’s last major dam, which means there is likely a future for wind power development in B.C. beyond these new, small-scale projects.

“British Columbia has a vast, untapped wind resource with a multitude of investors willing and able to build in the province,” said Ian Baillie, B.C. regional director of the Canadian Wind Energy Association, in the press release. “We look forward to continuing to work with BC Hydro and the Government of British Columbia to unlock this clean and renewable energy resource.”