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Ledcor won't put wind tower in estuary

Ledcor Power won't be putting a wind research tower in the Squamish Estuary after all.

Ledcor Power won't be putting a wind research tower in the Squamish Estuary after all.

The company withdrew its application to install a wind-measuring tower, also known as a MET tower, and a Ledcor representative said the company is walking away from wind energy in Squamish.

Derek Hutchinson of Ledcor confirmed this week that he formally withdrew Ledcor's application for 56 hectares (138 acres) of land to put a 50-metre (164-foot) tower in the centre of the estuary just below the high tide mark.

The withdrawal took place after Land and Water B.C. (LWBC) reviewed the application then offered Ledcor the opportunity to move to the next step in the LWBC process for issuing licences of occupation.

LWBC offered the land for Ledcor's use despite the fact that the District of Squamish (DOS) opposed Ledcor's application in light of the fact that the DOS is currently involved conducting its own wind energy initiative aimed at investigating the feasibility of establishing a wind energy project in Squamish. The initiative also probed the level of support Squamish residents have for a wind farm in the area.

Ledcor was acting outside the DOS process.

Malleau spoke out against the Ledcor application and the DOS sent a letter to LWBC indicating it opposed Ledcor's request.

Following that indication of opposition, Ledcor decided to withdraw.

Hutchinson wrote in a letter to Squamish Mayor Ian Sutherland that further investment in studying the wind potential in Squamish would not be prudent.

"Ledcor is abandoning its investigative permit and licence of occupation applications with Land and Water B.C.," Hutchinson wrote.

Economic Development Officer Lee Malleau, working with a consulting firm, determined that a sound business case can be made for a wind energy project and utility in Squamish. Malleau reported to council last month that there is "broad public support for the idea".

The consulting firm Malleau is working with is called Sea Breeze Power, a company currently spearheading a major wind farm project at the north end of Vancouver Island.

The work done by Sea Breeze and the economic development office concluded that the best winds for energy production are located on the tops of surrounding ridges, and not at the bottom of the valley.

Malleau is recommending that applications be made for investigative permits that may lead to the installation of MET towers on Goat Ridge, Brohm Ridge and Sechelt Ridge.

"At this time, staff would like to proceed with the permitting and meetings associated with their application, such as meetings with other stakeholders (Garibaldi at Squamish proponents for example), regional districts and First Nations," Malleau wrote in an update for Squamish Council on the local energy initiative.

The permitting process would include taking steps similar to the ones taken by Ledcor in asking for permission to put up the MET tower in the Squamish Estuary.

LWBC will have to be consulted and ultimately, if the proposed MET towers are to go on Crown land, LWBC will have the final say on whether or not occupancy permits will be granted.

Malleau also recommended that council consider creating a corporation that will own assets and manage distribution of power production in partnership with private sector participants.

"It is recommended that the DOS be prepared to take up to a 20 per cent equity position in the project," Malleau wrote. "This will limit the cost to the District while ensuring there is still a reasonable expectation of return on investment, while at the same time allowing the District to have a strong influence on the management and distribution of the services."

Malleau and Council envision a world-class wind energy centre for Squamish that would include a production facility employing hundreds of people.

Council directed staff to move to phase two of the local wind initiative and work toward putting up MET towers so data collection can begin. As well, council directed staff to draft a long-term sustainable energy strategy for Squamish. Council also asked staff to start working toward creating a development corporation that will partner with private sector companies and potentially the Squamish Nation to create a wind energy project.