Sea Breeze proposes wind farm on Mount Hays

Sea Breeze proposes a wind farm on Mount Hays consisting of a maximum of 24 turbines.

Investigative and licence areas for Sea Breeze’s proposal.

‘LNG Town’ it ain’t.

With so many liquefied natural gas terminal proposals near Prince Rupert, it can be easy to label it as the next LNG capital of North America, but one Vancouver-based company is looking to change that with an alternative energy proposal of their own.

A 48-megawatt (MW) wind farm, consisting of a maximum of 24 turbines has been proposed by Sea Breeze Power Corp. on Mount Hays.

While not the first company to propose such a venture on that location (Katabatic Power Corp. explored a similar wind project in the late 2000s), Sea Breeze is anticipating a strong response from the North Coast community for a desire for sustainable and renewable energy in the area.

The proponent has begun the permitting stage of the project, which includes a submitted Development Plan Template to the province.

“[Katabatic] wasn’t able to get their project to go for a variety of reasons and recently they walked away from it, so we didn’t buy this project from them but we’ve known [about the location] for some time,” said James Griffiths, manager, wind development at Sea Breeze.

“The northwest is an important place in B.C. in terms of energy issues, electrically and politically, so we took an interest there. We looked around and this project really stuck out to us as the best project in the region. It’s a project that’s constructable, it’s close to the port, where equipment would come in, it’s close to transmission lines where you’d interconnect the site, it already has a road up onto the site, which we’d need to upgrade, and we don’t see any major environmental critical flaws at the site.”

The manager described the appealing aspects of the location, including the elevated mountain, which forces accelerating wind over and above Mount Hays, the fact that it’s exposed to winter storms and storms coming in from the Pacific Ocean, it’s not too steep, and from the site, the port, substation, and the highway and transmission lines are all visible.“That’s a pretty unique set of circumstances,” said Griffiths.

Sea Breeze is utilizing Katabatic’s previous research to help supplement their own, including environmental studies published as public information.

“That’s not sufficient; it’s not our whole study, but it informs our work … We don’t have to do as much field work as we would normally, because there’s existing information there, and then in some cases they were able to confirm that an environmental factor existed or didn’t exist, so that helps guide us also,” said Griffiths.

Sea Breeze has already begun initial consultation work with five area First Nations – the Metlakatla, Lax Kw’alaams, Gitxaala, Kitsumkalum and Kitselas Nations concerning rights and title and has begun talks with the City of Prince Rupert on tax revenues and employment.

While the land in question is provincial crown land, it falls in the municipal boundaries of Prince Rupert. And while no First Nation nor the city has given blanket support for the project just yet, all are aware of the benefits that clean energy can bring,  provided any project is appropriate for the area. “That’s been as positive as we can expect at this time,” said the manager.

The 48 MW farm would be enough to power the city of Prince Rupert, though Griffiths specified that the final size of the project will be dependant on the contract between BC Hydro and Sea Breeze.

“That’s a medium-sized wind farm in British Columbia,” he said.

“We’re permitting up to 48 MW, but we won’t know until a later time how large of a contract we may get with BC Hydro.”

As Sea Breeze gets its permitting in order, Griffiths expects a timeline of a few years before construction would actually begin, including permitting through 2016-2017, getting financing and designs in order from 2018-2019 and ramping up construction in 2020 for a 2020 in-service date set out by BC Hydro, as an example.

The construction of the project is swift and would take approximately a year and would provide 150-200 construction jobs and six to eight full time technician positions while in operation.

“So that’s a much smaller number, but those jobs last for the duration of the project. Today’s projects are expected to last at least 25 years, so those are solid career jobs,” said the manager.

Sea Breeze is soliciting public feedback on the development plan template found at http://arfd.gov.bc.ca/ApplicationPosting/index.jsp and written comments can be emailed to Griffiths at j.griffiths@sbx-v.com, and CC’ed to the Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations project manager Leanne Helkenberg at Leanne.Helkenberg@gov.bc.ca until Sept. 16.

“We look forward to the input from the citizens of Prince Rupert … The project just also helps create an identity for Prince Rupert as a town that’s concerned with sustainability – that’s not just an LNG town, but has other things going for it. We think that would fit in nicely with the town and the direction they’re trying to go.”