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Peace Region optimistic after 'clean power cull'

Odds of a second wind project becoming a reality in B.C.'s Peace River region increased after a shortlist released by BC Hydro kept the door open for seven of 10 proposed projects.

“We're delighted that the next step of the process is underway,” said TJ Schur, director of external relations for Aeolis Wind Power, who are aiming to build the 320-megawatt Thunder Mountain wind project located 33 kilometres southeast of Tumbler Ridge. “I would be optimistic that there's a recognition there's a good wind resource in the South Peace.” *

Earlier this week, the crown corporation announced it was paring down the list of independent power project hopefuls from 68 applicants to 47. Of that number, 13 unnamed projects have been approved (subject to adequate First Nations consultation), while another 34 projects could go ahead if they can make their projects more cost-effective.

Five of the seven projects could be built near Tumbler Ridge, with others on track for Chetwynd and near Hudson's Hope. In all, 10 of the 47 remaining proposed projects across B.C. are comprised of wind power.

“I take it as a fairly good indication that BC Hydro felt these seven projects were ready to go on in development,” said Schur. BC Hydro will now contact those 47 proponents to discuss cost-effectiveness. The Crown corporation and the B.C. Utilities Commission (BCUC) are essentially looking for projects to prove they are low-risk, she added.

The 47 projects remaining make up a combined 13,000 gigawatt hours of new power, far more than the 5,000 gigawatt hours BC Hydro sought in its 2008 Clean Power Call. Since issuing the call, BC Hydro indicated it may only be pursuing 3,000 gigawatt hours of electricity. Despite the uncertainty, Tumbler Ridge mayor Larry White said he's “happy to see the process working - its been a long time coming.”

The fate of clean power in B.C. was made murky in July by a BCUC decision to reject a key B.C. Hydro planning document. The commission threw out the 2008 long-term acquisition plan, a document that sets out BC Hydro’s balance between energy conservation and new power production over the next decade. But it left the door open by noting BC Hydro still “has the scope, with or without Commission endorsement” to enter into electricity purchase agreements (EPAs).

However, that air of uncertainty led Capital Power to have the province's environmental assessment office put a hold on the environmental assessment application for their Quality Wind Project in October.

Dawson Creek's 102-megawatt Bear Mountain Wind Park began supplying power to the BC Hydro grid earlier this month.

* On Nov. 24 the electricity output figure for the Thunder Mountain wind project was corrected.

Greg Amos reports for The Tyee.

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