The District of Squamish may soon be generating its own power and boosting its economy at the same time.
Thanks to funding from Western Economic Diversification Canada and Suncor Energy Products Inc., the district and its project partner Sea Breeze Power Corp. will install wind measurement towers and instruments and provide the district with a comprehensive business plan outlining how the community can initiate and develop its own wind energy.
Phase II of the wind energy plan was secured in November 2005 along with the funding totaling approximately $90,000. The district has picked up 10 per cent of the cost for a total of $10,500, which was paid out last year. Snow in the mountains made the installation of the meteorological towers too challenging in November, so the installation and testing will begin in May. "Proving the quality of the wind resource in Squamish is an exciting next step in the development of wind energy for our community," said Squamish Mayor Ian Sutherland.
Since April 2004, the district and Sea Breeze has been investigating wind energy as a viable means of community-driven power generation and a potential tourist attraction. A Squamish Official Community Plan survey in July 2005 indicated that 82 per cent of survey respondents indicated that support of wind power and alternative energy businesses was medium to very high priorities for employment, lands and economic development, according to Dan McRae of the Squamish Sustainability Corp.
Long term gains at this stage are uncertain until the wind is measured for a year, said McRae. But according to the BC Sustainable Energy Association: "Wind energy is the fastest growing power sector worldwide. If wind turbines were manufactured in BC, their manufacturing and installation would create six jobs per megawatt (MW), so each 100 MW project would produce 600 full-time jobs. For each direct job created, an additional job would be created in associated sectors (planning, etc). Operations and maintenance create another 1-5 jobs per five MW. In the USA, it has been estimated that wind energy creates 27 per cent more jobs per kilowatt hour than coal-fired power, and 66 per cent more jobs than natural gas-fired power. A 100 MW installation will typically generate around $850,000 in local purchases."
Another advantage is that more than one large manufacturer of wind turbines has looked at Squamish as a location for new production facilities due to the town's strategic location with port and rail access, according to McRae.
"If the community itself is stewarding wind energy development, we will be more attractive then competing communities," he said. "Industry folks are telling me that if you ordered a commercial grade wind turbine today, chances are you would not get it until late 2008 or early 2009 so the market for production is opportune. If the wind is favorable, the goal would be to try to have installation completed asap. It could be as early as 2008 depending on the community's plans on how to use energy we would generate."
An additional benefit is that, as part of the agreement, Sea Breeze will collaborate with landscape architecture graduate students from the University of British Columbia to develop the tourist potential stemming from the project and to mitigate its visual impacts. The agreement between Sea Breeze and the District of Squamish concludes in July 2007, when Sea Breeze will present its final report.
"Sea Breeze is excited to be working with the District of Squamish to complete Phase II, the testing and community development strategy, of their wind energy initiative," said Sea Breeze President Paul B. Manson. "Developing wind energy is a great opportunity for Squamish, not only as an income generator and job creator but also as a strong demonstration of the District's commitment to renewable energy and environmental stewardship."