The future looks bright and breezy for green, clean wind energy - if B.C. is willing to get on board. This message, from Sea Breeze Power Corp. vice-president of government relations Eugene Hodgson, was delivered during the Squamish Chamber of Commerce luncheon Tuesday (June 20).
"B.C. is falling behind," said Hodgson. "It will miss the boat if it doesn't act quickly."
Sea Breeze is in the process of building meteorological towers on Alice Ridge to assess the area's wind energy potential, but Hodgson said more public pressure on the province may be necessary to ensure the benefits of wind power reach communities throughout B.C.
Independent power producers must sell energy to BC Hydro, but provincial policy on wind power is lagging, said Hodgson, which is creating obstacles for the alternative energy source to take off. Now wind power advocates are counting on influential organizations such as Chambers of Commerce to direct provincial policy.
"Policy is key," he said. "We can't let Hydro wag the dog. Widespread acceptance means wind is politically popular."
The community first heard about the Sea Breeze local wind assessment project in March 2004 during two public information meetings followed by a community survey. At the time, the World Energy Council (WEC) named the region north of Vancouver as the number one place in the world for wind energy potential. The District of Squamish followed up on the public meetings with an invitation for Sea Breeze to hold a small demonstration project, the results of which are expected to be in by 2010.
But Squamish may not see benefits for years to come because the province remains behind the rest of the country, and much of the developed world, when it comes to utilizing wind power. With one megawatt capable of powering 1,000 homes, B.C. and New Brunswick are the only provinces currently producing zero megawatts in wind energy. And whereas New Brunswick has a purchase power agreement (PPA) in place for 400 megawatts, B.C. has no such agreement. Germany is among the top producers in the world with 18,428 megawatts of wind power.
Sea Breeze is focused on unlocking the "enormous stranded wind potential" on the coast through the development of large-scale windfarms and underwater electricity transmission lines, according to the company website.
Potential exists for 20,000 megawatts in B.C., said Hodgson, but most of the potential is lost due to the remoteness of many of the best areas. Squamish is an ideal location because of its proximity to the transmission power grid already established by BC Hydro.