An independent power company is walking away from a controversial wind project proposed in a rural area near Fort St. John, saying they failed to win the community’s support.
While relatively small, Renewable Energy Systems (RES) Canada’s seven-turbine Montney Wind project encountered considerable pushback from rural residents since it was proposed last year.
Patrick Henn, development manager with Renewable Energy Systems Canada, Inc., said his company made the decision to “pause” the project in early April. He said the project could be taken off the shelf “if we can find a way to make it acceptable to the community.”
“We think there could be a good project,” he said. “But we don’t want to do a project if there’s a lot of opposition.”
Last July, 130 residents packed a community hall in Montney to voice concerns about the project—including its visual impacts, noise, and effects on animals.
RES Canada has two other projects in the region slated near Hutterite Colonies in the South Peace. Those developments have not attracted the same level of controversy, Henn said.
BC Hydro power deals irk rural directors
While the Site C dam almost guarantees no large-scale wind power projects will built in the next decade, smaller projects across have proliferated across the region thanks to BC Hydro’s Standing Offer Program.
Under the program, independent renewable power producers (IPPs) can sell power to the grid without a formal, long-term agreement with BC Hydro. Small projects under 15 megawatts are allowed to proceed without a provincial environmental assessment, making them considerably easier to build.
Site C is expected to come online with a large power surplus, meaning it’s unlikely the province will need large scale power from IPPs in the coming decades. As a result, the Canadian Wind Energy Association closed its B.C. office this year, citing a lack of business opportunity.
The Standing Offer Program aims to diversify BC Hydro’s grid and provide local benefits across the province, but some complain the standing offer program gives IPPs preferential rates.
Henn said large scale wind projects are low-cost and could compete with hydroelectric, but not without longterm power sales deals.
“So in the meantime there’s this program,” he said. “On the part of the industry, we’ve made the push to BC Hydro, saying ‘let’s do massive mind in B.C. and we could do it cheaper than hydro.’ But they didn’t listen.”