Meikle Wind Energy Project gets Environmental Assessment Approval

Trent Ernst, Editor


More than four years after the Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) from BC Hydro was granted, Pattern Energy has been granted an Environmental Assessment Certificate (EAC) for the Meikle Wind Energy Project.

BC’s Environment Minister Mary Polak and Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett made the decision to grant the EAC after considering the review led by B.C.’s Environmental Assessment Office (EAO).

The new project is larger than originally granted—184 MW vs the original 117 MW—as it incorporates the production originally scheduled to be in a second, 47 MW project, called the Tumbler Ridge project.

That project was originally granted an EAC in March of 2012, back when Finavera owned both projects. However in April of last year, Finavera finalized terms for the sale of these projects to Pattern Development and closed the transaction in April of this year for gross consideration of up to $28 million.

Pattern appeared before town council last year, requesting that tax rates for these sorts of projects be reduced. While council did reduce the tax rate, it apparently was not enough as the PPA with BC Hydro was cancelled in April of this year, and, while Finavera still retains licenses and permits for that site (as well as the Bullmoose and Wildmare projects), only Meikle will be going ahead, at least for the foreseeable future.

In the Environmental Review Process, changes were made to reduce the impact on northern caribou low-elevation Ungulate Winter Range. “Together with the application of best management practices and mitigation measures required in the Certified Project Description and recommended conditions,” says the Reasons for Ministers’ Decision document, “[These changes] resulted in reductions in habitat disturbance, stream crossings and visual effects and avoidance of established northern caribou range.”

As part of the approval, Pattern “must implement a Monitoring and Adaptive Management Plan for Birds and Bats (MAMP) that was finalized during Application review.” This plan includes “creation of a technical advisory committee with First Nation participation; pre and post operational monitoring requirements; real-time mitigation measures with triggers for Proponent action and reporting; creation of a predictive model to understand bat mortality; and a suite of adaptive management strategies ranging from adjusting turbine start-up speeds to temporarily shutting down problem turbines.”

The ministers also concluded that they were satisfied that the Proponent’s “consultation duty has been met,” In regards to consultation with local First Nations.

Other conditions include: retaining the services of an independent environmental monitor during the construction and decommissioning phase of the project, and a reduction in the project footprint.

When built, the project will have about 68 turbines, and produce enough energy to power 52,000 homes. Construction will take about 24 months to complete, and is expected to start sometime in 2015, though that date has slipped from earlier estimates of fall of this year.

While it is being built, the project will employ about 175 people full-time, and support nine full-time jobs after it is finished.

The project will be built approximately 30 km north of Tumbler Ridge, just south of Gwillim Lake Provincial Park.