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Building begins on Meikle Wind Energy project

After years of discussion and site clearing, work has started on what will be the largest wind energy project in British Columbia.

After years of discussion and site clearing, work has started on what will be the largest wind energy project in British Columbia.

Road building has begun on Pattern Energy Group LP's $400 million Meikle Wind Energy project, located 33 kilometres outside of Tumbler Ridge.

Peace River South MLA Mike Bernier and Minister of Energy and Mines Bill Bennett announced the project with great fanfare in Tumbler Ridge in January, while work only began this month after a lengthly delay.

Although work to clear the site has been ongoing since October 2014, construction is kicking into high gear now that the weather is improving. Last week, crews began building roads to access the site, and activity in the area will continue to increase.

Hiring for the main construction works started last week. Borea Construction, the company contracted for the main construction works, held a job fair in Tumbler Ridge April 8 and 9.

First Nations' contractors, like Duz Cho Construction LP, have been sub-contracted to build the roads.

Construction is expected to ramp up this summer.

"Main construction is planned to commence in June and will include earthworks, foundation construction, and electrical equipment installation," construction manager Michael Thompson told the Alaska Highway News.

"Limited vegetation clearing began in October 2014," he added. "Limited early earthwork is currently in progress on the project."

An average of 150 workers will be on site during construction with up to 275 workers on-site during peak periods.

Once up and running, the wind farm will generate about nine permanent full-time jobs, the company estimates.

Construction will hit a peak in July when work on the turbine foundations and substations begins.

According to Meikle Wind Energy Corp., the project will contribute more than $70 million in payments to the province, including property taxes and its Crown land lease.

Benefit agreements are in place with five Treaty 8 First Nations, and the company says it plans to announce community donations to "causes important to the Tumbler Ridge region" in July, but it isn't saying yet what these will be.

Public access to the project site will be restricted during the construction period, subject to safety related restrictions.

"Equipment will access the project site in early April and a security guard will be on site to inform road users of any safety related information," Colin Edwards, vice president of business for Pattern Development wrote in a  letter to the Peace River Regional District.

The project consists of 61 wind turbine generators that will  provide about 185 megawatts of clean, renewable energy to the BC Hydro grid, enough to power the equivalent of about 54,000 homes each year.

The project was granted an Environmental Assessment Certificate in June 2014.

Construction will continue through November 2016. The project is expected to be operational later that year.

The turbines themselves won't be delivered until June 2016. The company hopes to have them up and running by November 2016.

Pattern Energy has signed a 25-year power purchase agreement with BC Hydro.

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