Politicians cautious about Summerland-area wind farms

Regional district wants to ensure it gets a say in development of any such projects

Twin wind farms proposed for sites west of Summerland have gained support from some local politicians who are nonetheless wary about opening the door to the industry.

Zero Emission Energy Developments has applied to the B.C. government for a licence of occupation on two land parcels, each to host seven turbines, about 30 kilometres west of Summerland.

The proposed wind farms straddle Areas F, G and H within the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen.

However, only Area F has a zoning bylaw that would apply to a single turbine, which would require a variance to exceed eight metres in height. The proposed turbines would be 95 metres tall at the hub where 50-metre blades are attached.

“It does seem odd that the board does potentially have a veto over that one turbine,” RDOS planner Chris Garrish told a committee meeting Thursday.

He asked for permission to begin work on a new set of regulations to cover height exceptions for the Zero Emissions proposal and others that may arise.

Area F Director Michael Brydon said he supports the Summerland-area projects, but would like to retain the ability through the variance-granting process to have a say in the wind farm’s development.

“I think one thing we’ve learned in this region in the last decade is we can’t trust Telus and Fortis and (B.C.) Hydro to have meaningful consultations, which means we’re forced to use whichever levers and tools we have,” he said.

Other committee members felt new regulations should deal with more than height restrictions.

“It’s a much bigger issue than height alone,” said Tom Siddon, the director for Okanagan Falls-Kaleden.

He asked staff to look into regulations concerning noise, environmental considerations, watershed impacts and other issues of concern to the public that have been raised in communities where wind turbines have been the subject of complaints.

The committee was also asked by the B.C. government to indicate whether it generally supports the Zero Emissions projects, which it did, but with three members opposed, including Siddon.

“By giving our tacit approval here, we could be opening the door to a much bigger project,” he said.

Brydon, however, said concern about the two projects in question is probably misplaced.

“This particular site is well-logged, well-roaded, well-developed, (and) in the middle of nowhere,” he said.

“I don’t think we’re giving carte blanche.”

According to Zero Emission’s application for tenure, the company has spent the past two years meeting with government agencies, including the RDOS, and local First Nations.

Together, the applications request a licence of occupation for 2,557 hectares to cover additional infrastructure like roads and transmission lines, although the permanent footprint of both projects is expected to be 143 hectares.

The company has also drafted plans to monitor and mitigate environmental concerns, and expects noise impacts to be “at a low level,” because the nearest home is five kilometres away, according to the applications.