Peigans gather data and support

Starting on the first leg of plans for a 101 MW wind farm on the Peigan First Nation reserve in south western Alberta, Weather-Dancer Wind Power Inc intends to install its first Nordex 1 MW turbine next month. The test unit will be joined by three other turbines by early 1999, according to William Big Bull, project co-ordinator. If fully realised, the C$200 million wind farm will be one of Canada's largest.

Weather-Dancer is awaiting engineering specifications for the foundations of the pilot project from the German/Danish manufacturer, Nordex Balcke-Dürr. Wind measurements were taken on a ridge at the proposed 2027 acre site at the east end of the reserve. The first unit is expected to provide data to design the wind farm -- the whole site must be approved by Peigan Nation residents in a referendum under the Canadian Federal Indian Act. Local supporters hope the turbine will inspire confidence in wind power technology among the Peigan Nation. "Seeing is believing," says one resident. Big Bull says he cannot give a specific time frame for installation of the remaining 97 turbines, but units will be added in stages as power purchase contracts are signed.

The C$4.8 million pilot project will be financed by the Peigan Nation, which is seeking help from the Department of Indian Affairs (DIA) under the Federal Procurement Strategy for Aboriginal Business. Meanwhile Weather-Dancer's joint venture partners -- Peigan Utilities Inc and Advanced ThermoDynamics Corp (ATC) -- are seeking financing for a turbine manufacturing facility on the reserve worth C$3 million. Some support is expected in the form of loan guarantees from DIA and other federal agencies which promote employment and economic development in First Nation communities. "That's how ATC got started," explains the company's Chris Gotmalm.