While British Columbia’s biggest wind farm, the 180-MW Meikle Wind project north of Tumbler Ridge, has just gone online, there is little celebrating in a province where the massive Site C hydro dam is expected to wipe out any demand for further wind development for the foreseeable future.
The 25-year project, build under a power purchase agreement with BC Hydro, will deliver $70 million in property tax revenue, Crown lease payments, wind participation rent, and other community benefits, DeSmog Canada reports. The project had the support of Treaty 8 First Nations and the nearby towns of Tumbler Ridge and Chetwynd, used more than 500,000 person hours of labour, according to a company release, and let more than 30% of its contracts to regional companies and First Nations-affiliated service providers.
But “despite wind power’s state-of-the-art technology and increasing affordability, B.C. is unlikely to see more such projects in the near future because construction of the Site C dam means BC Hydro is not looking for additional power,” DeSmog notes. Even though career civil servant Harry Swain, who chaired the federal-provincial review for the $9-billion, 1,100-MW hydro megaproject, says the province won’t need the power it produces for decades.
“If there was a need, we could meet it with a variety of other renewable and smaller-scale sources,” Swain said almost two years ago. “Then the wind industry would be well-positioned to succeed because wind energy is as inexpensive…as any other source of electricity generation, with the possible exception of natural gas. And with carbon pricing coming in, that will change fairly soon.”
The Canadian Wind Energy Association withdrew from the province last year. “BC Hydro has publicly stated that there would be no need to procure any additional power until at least 2030,” noted President Bob Hornung. And at a time when B.C. already has an electricity surplus, “it’s a tough time from the development point of view,” said Paul Kariya, executive director of Clean Energy BC.
“We should be doing everything we can to electrify, and there should be longer-term work on an export strategy,” but “we don’t have a strategy in B.C.,” Kariya told DeSmog. “The previous premier (Gordon Campbell) was keen to champion it but, since then, there has been no interest.”