Trent Ernst, Editor
Minister of Energy and Mines Bill Bennett stood before a packed house to launch construction of the $400-million Meikle Wind Energy Project.
Pattern Development’s Meikle Wind project is located 33 kilometres northwest of Tumbler Ridge, between Tumbler Ridge and Chetwynd. While the project will have 61 wind turbine generators (fewer than Capital Power’s Quality Wind), the project is expected to provide 185 megawatts of capacity, making it the largest wind power project in the province (Quality Wind is a 142 MW project).
When completed, the project will add 30 percent to BC’s wind energy and be the fifth wind project in the province, behind Dawson Creek’s Bear Mountain Wind, the Dokkie Ridge Wind Farm near Chetwynd, The Eye of the Wind turbine at Grouse Mountain near Vancouver and Tumbler Ridge’s own Quality Wind Project.
The project will provide the province with enough clean, renewable energy to the BC Hydro grid each year to power the equivalent of approximately 54,000 homes, says Bennett.
Before he made the announcement, Bennett addressed the hundred-plus residents of Tumbler Ridge who packed the Trend Mountain Conference Centre. “I was told there may be some folks expecting or hoping that the Mines Minister is here to announce the re-opening of one of the mines. Unfortunately, I’m not. I wanted to get that out of the way, just in case anyone wanted to leave.”
Most, if not all stayed to hear Bennett go off-script to discuss how Site C could potentially benefit Tumbler Ridge, as the marching orders for BC Hydro he says is to hire locally and regionally first. “It occurred to me that we should try to meet with the leaders of your community to discuss with them the opportunities for Tumbler Ridge from the Site C project. I didn’t know I would get the opportunity to talk directly to you, which is fantastic.
“Construction is going to start this summer, we are quite certain. There’s going to be construction, there’s going to be earth moving… a lot of the jobs that are associated with Site C are more like mining jobs than anything else. There’s a lot of crossover between the skill sets for a coal mine and the skill sets that are going to be required for this project.”
But the big announcement was around Meikle Wind, and Bennett was joined by Peace River South MLA Mike Bernier, representatives of Pattern Energy, Clean Energy BC, the Canadian Wind Energy Association, BC Hydro and mayor Don McPherson to discuss the project.
The Meikle Wind project was awarded a 25-year electricity purchase agreement in BC Hydro’s 2008 Clean Power Call. British Columbia’s Environmental Assessment Office issued an Environmental Assessment Certificate in June 2014.
Site preparation has already begun, with a vegetation clearing underway. The actual construction on the turbine bases is expected to begin in June of this year.
Project construction will last for 24 months, with commercial operation anticipated by the end of 2016. During construction, the project is estimated to generate about 175 jobs, and nine full-time jobs once in operation.
Michael Garland, CEO, Pattern Development, says that one thing about wind energy is it uses a lot of steel. “The more turbines we build, the more steel is needed, and the more metallurgical coal will be needed to produce that steel.”
Garland thanked the people of Tumbler Ridge for allowing the company to come into the community, and promised, as much as possible, to hire locally. “We are a long-term neighbour to y’all,” he says. “You’ve allowed us to come into your community, and we expect to be good neighbours for the next 30 years or more. If you ever have problems, send me an email, get on our website, because it takes a relationship with the community to do a project like this.”