Potential in the wind for Naramata

The area around Naramata is known for its ability to produce wine, but now someone’s interested in its potential to produce wind energy.

A numbered company has applied for an investigative use permit to test the wind speed and frequency on Mount Atkinson about nine kilometres east of Naramata.

B.C.’s corporate registry lists Jinwei Li as the sole director of the numbered company, which was incorporated in May 2012 and is headquartered at a residential address in Port Coquitlam. Li could not be reached for comment.

According to documents attached to the application, the company has identified four sites on which it would erect 80-metre towers to test the wind. All of the sites can be accessed via existing logging roads, although some tree removal would be required for installation of an unspecified number of towers, which would have a three-metre-square footprint and rest on concrete foundations poured 2.5 metres deep.

If the investigative use permit is approved, the documents state wind testing would begin in October and last at least one year, but public consultation would start this month followed by geological, wildlife and other surveys in June.

As envisioned in the application documents, the wind farm would eventually feature 10 turbines, each 85 metres tall with a blade diameter of 82 metres, producing a total of 15 megawatts of electricity.

According to the Canadian Wind Energy Association guidelines, that’s enough to power up to 5,000 homes.

Public comment on the investigative use application will be accepted until Jan. 6, after which the B.C. Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations will decide on it.

Ministry spokesman Brennan Clarke said via email that there are about 45 active investigate use licences for wind in the Thompson-Okanagan and another 30 applications still in the works.

“To date no actual wind farm approvals have resulted from any of these permits,” Clarke added.

B.C. has just three wind farms in operation, all of them in the Peace region.

Peter Robinson, past president of the Okanagan chapter of the B.C. Sustainable Energy Association, said this region’s rugged topography makes it a tough place to capture wind power.

“The Southern Interior, although it does have some good places for wind, generally speaking it’s, on balance, the worst part of B.C. for wind,” Robinson said.

“It’s just not as windy as those other places.”

According to a 2008 study commissioned by B.C. Hydro, the Southern Interior’s potential for wind power is limited because the wind is generally multi-directional and difficult to measure due to the “highly complex nature of the mountainous terrain.”

The study, by consulting firm Garrad Hassan, also noted the region’s wind energy potential “will be severely limited due to terrain features such as ridges, suitability of turbines to site conditions, available electrical transmission, environmental planning constraints, and the expected power demand in this region.”

And while the cost of building a wind farm in the Southern Interior was projected to be comparable to other areas of B.C., the report pointed out that a relatively poor forecast for wind reliability in this area would result in “a comparatively high cost of energy.”


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