The Yukon government and Navigation Canada have approved the proposal for a privately owned commercial wind farm on Haeckel Hill.
Northern Energy Capital of Whitehorse is proposing a $14-million investment to put up three wind turbines capable of generating enough energy to supply 525 homes, with the possibility of a fourth turbine down the road.
“Construction will occur during the spring, summer and fall, with operations beginning in the fall of 2018 or 2019,” says the decision document.
The Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board recommended approval of the project in late June following a review of the proposal.
The decision document was issued this week.
Northern Energy president Malek Tawashy said Thursday from Vancouver all the company really needs now is a power purchase agreement with the territorial government.
It has an arrangement with Yukon Energy to sublease the site, he explained.
He said the company has applied for a small chunk of additional land to tack onto the existing lease, and has a letter from the City of Whitehorse supporting the application.
Tawashy said staff have completed a grid-impact assessment with ATCO Electric Yukon.
On Wednesday, the company learned from ATCO that as the result of a preliminary assessment, it looks like Northern Energy will be able to use the existing transmission line that runs from Haeckel Hill down to ATCO’s Fish Lake hydro infrastructure, he pointed out.
He said they’ve already submitted their application for the road improvement project required to transport the wind turbines up the hill.
The company also has more than one First Nation development corporation interested in becoming a partner, including the development corporation owned by the Kwanlin Dun First Nation, he said.
Tawashy said all they really need now is a power purchase agreement, but the window is quickly closing on the project becoming operational next year.
There is the lead time to order the turbines from Europe, have them built and delivered, he pointed out.
The Northern Energy president said if the turbines aren’t spinning next year, most certainly they will be in 2019.
Two primary concerns raised during the assessment board’s review focused on the potential impact on birds and bats and how the new turbines would affect the site as a popular launch and landing area for paragliders and hang gliders.
Based on evidence submitted, the assessment board found there would be very little if any impact on birds and bats.
While the new wind farm would alter the use of the site by paragliders and hang gliders, it could still be used safely, the board found.
The hub of each new tower will be 69 metres off the ground.
The top of the rotating blades will reach another 30 metres above the hub, resulting in a total height of 99 metres (325 feet) from the ground to the top of the spinning blade.
Each of the new turbines will have a generating capacity of 900 kilowatts, for a total of 2.7 megawatts, with the possibility of expanding to 3.6 megawatts if the fourth turbine is installed.
By comparison, the total generating capacity of the six diesel generators in Watson Lake is 5.7 megawatts.
The original Bonus turbine installed by Yukon Energy in 1993 as a pilot project has a generating capacity of 150 kilowatts, and is 41.5 metres tall from the highest point of the spinning blades. It’s been out of operation for several years.
The second turbine, installed in 2000, is 60.8 metres tall, and has a generating capacity of 660 kilowatts.
As part of the arrangement to lease the site from Yukon Energy, Northern Energy has proposed to decommission the Bonus turbine and refurbish it for use in a small, off-grid community, Tawashy said.
The Northern Energy president said they are continuing to work with the Yukon First Nation development corporations on the investment opportunities, as a means of developing community support for the project.
Northern Energy has the finanical means to go it alone but would prefer involvement from the community, he said.
Northern Energy has been in discussions with the Yukon government’s energy branch regarding the power purchase agreement.
Shane Andre, the director of the energy branch, was out of the office today and unavailable for comment.
It was Andre, on behalf of the Yukon government, who signed off on the decision document approving the proposal.