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British Columbia starts with sizeable project -- Province with huge resource potential eases wind door open

A Vancouver Island wind power project of 58.5 MW is one of 16 winning bids in a call for tenders that will add 1800 GWh of green energy a year to British Columbia's electricity mix and generate about C$800 million in private sector investment. The C$90 million Holberg wind project, to be commissioned by October 2005, will be the province's first wind power development. The facility, to be spread over two sites on the northwest coast of the island, will produce 176 GWh of electricity a year for BC Hydro under a 20-year purchase agreement.

Vancouver-based Stothert Power Corporation, which is new to the wind business, has formed a joint venture with California's Global Renewable Energy Partners, owned by Danish turbine manufacturer NEG Micon, to develop the project. Although the companies expect to install 30-35 turbines, says company president Win Stothert, no decision has been made about unit size or model. "Our partner is owned by NEG Micon so there is certainly a possibility that they will be the turbines of choice, but we will be looking at others."

BC Hydro released a request for qualifications in October 2002 and received 70 proposals. It invited a short list of 30 developers to submit formal bids and 16 responded. Although the utility had originally planned to buy 800 GWh/year, it more than doubled that amount because BC needs the power and because all the bids met its criteria.

"We decided to purchase electricity from all of them," says CEO Larry Bell. "What that means for our customers is a guaranteed supply of competitively priced power for the future." To be accepted, bids had to fall within the utility's ceiling price of C$55/MWh, after being adjusted for factors like location, firmness of energy and transmission impacts.

SUBSTANTIAL RESOURCE

Although the Holberg project is the first to win a power purchase agreement, the West Coast province's substantial wind resources have caught the attention of developers. Of 96 letters of interest registered under Canada's wind power production incentive (WPPI), 13 are for BC projects totalling 1105 MW. The capacity total for the province is higher than any other province, mainly due to 680 MW worth of offshore wind. There is also at least another 370 MW not on the WPPI list.

Wind development, however, has some obstacles to overcome in BC. The province's complex mountainous terrain and lack of wind data makes development difficult. The government owns about 92% of the province's land base, and although Land and Water BC is in the process of developing a policy for wind power leases, right now the only access developers have is for data collection.

Wind's costs also make it difficult to compete with the province's abundant small hydro resources, at least in the short term. In fact, 14 of the winning bids were small hydro projects with a combined capacity of about 440 MW. A 1.85 MW landfill gas cogeneration was also selected.

The province, however, is in the process of developing a comprehensive wind strategy, says the energy ministry's Janice Larson. "We're looking at fiscal and other types of incentives that are used in other jurisdictions to see which ones might apply and work well in British Columbia." A consultation paper is due this fall.

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