Members of the Lower Similkameen Indian Band, Fortis and Lars Jensen of Integrated Power Systems gathered at the Lower Similkameen Band school to dedicate the band’s first wind turbine on Thursday morning.
The start up of the five kilowatt S-343 Endurance Wind Power turbine is the first in what the band hopes will be a number of wind generation projects in the coming years.
The turbine at the Lower Similkameen school cost $50,000, the funding of which was supported through contributions from Fortis, Terasen Gas (now Fortis), the Clean Energy Fund, and through donations from the LSIB chief and council.
Band Manager Lisa Montgomery said that a feasability study was recently finished to see if the next project – a series of four, 50 kilowatt wind turbines should be built in the Ashnola area, with an intent to supply power to a number of houses located there.
“The studies have been done, and we are now looking at possible funding through federal and provincial grants,” she said. “The band has been interested in wind power for at least 20 years.This is the first phase of our plans for getting off the grid – we will be able to teach our kids about clean energy, something that fits in with our traditional values.”
The turbine is expected to generate roughly half of the school’s required annual power needs. It is also the first project in the area designed for Fortis’ new program of “net metering,” where the consumer produces power and sells the excess back to Fortis.
The project was partnered with Tsleiel-Waututh Nation Wind Power and FortisBC. TWN Wind Power is a wholly-owned company of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation based in North Vancouver. Representatives of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation were also invited to the dedication, but poor road conditions in the Allison Pass area forced them to cancel their travel plans last Thursday.
Construction of the turbine began in early September under the supervision of Integrated Power Systems’ Lars Jensen, a Kelowna based company also involved in the initial project. The turbine sits atop a 120 foot high mast that is anchored in a three foot diamter, nine foot deep concrete base.
“The concrete took about a month to cure,” Jensen said, “there is a lot of force brought to bear on the base.” On Thursday morning, clearing skies and a surprisingly light wind was blowing – more than enough spin the turbine blades at a brisk pace.
“I am really excited to see this happening,” said band councillor Carrie Terbasket. “We hold environmental protection in high regard, and this represents a good start in our plans to develop green power. It’s exciting to see at the school.”
The school kids will be able to monitor the turbine’s performance through a computer set up in the school, which will be helpful in teaching them about green power initiatives and sustainable power alternatives.
“We are pushing for environmentally friendly technology. It’s all about sustainability,” commented band Chief Rob Edwards. “Our past (environmental) management was all about those ideas, and this project goes hand in hand with them.”
Past band Chief Joe Dennis was also on hand for the dedication. Dennis was the band’s driving force behind the completion of the intial turbine. He thanked everyone present for their continuing push for wind generators, noting that wind generation ideas had been on the books for some time.