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Pennask Summit wind turbine energy supplying power across B.C.

A wind turbine in the Okanagan Wind project.
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January 25, 2021 - 8:30 AM

The energy created by the Okanagan's massive wind turbines can provide enough electricity to power 9,000 homes a year.

Okanagan Wind, a Zero Emission Energy Developments project managed by Instar AGT Asset Management, Inc., has 10 wind turbines in the Okanagan Valley, five at Pennask Summit off of Highway 97C, the more visible of the two projects, and five at Shinish Creek roughly 33 kilometres west of Summerland.

Totalling 30 megawatts of installed renewable energy capacity, the Okanagan Wind project represent approximately 6% of British Columbia's installed wind capacity, according to the project's website.

This electricity is sold to B.C. Hydro and distributed to throughout the province, said Dag Sharman, manager of community relations for B.C. Hydro in the Southern Interior, according to the company’s website.

Construction of the 100-metre high turbines began in 2016 with operations commencing in 2017. Okanagan Wind has a 40-year agreement with B.C. Hydro. The Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations spokesperson Tyler Hooper said the project also received a 30-year Crown land lease to operate the wind farm that will continue until 2047.

READ MORE: Two Okanagan wind farms get green light

Stephen Simpson and Ryan Wang with InstarAGF Asset Management Inc said the company has been managing the turbines since 2015.

“Up on the plateau it’s windy, so at both the Pennask Summit and the Shinish site, they’re both on ridges or heights of land. The terrain was suitable for access to enable us to get the turbines up to their locations. These were two specific sites that seemed to work quite well,” Simpson said.

There are five employees in West Kelowna that service the Pennask Summit turbines, and Okanagan Wind has made efforts in the last few years to offer tours of the turbines and visit schools in West Kelowna, Merritt and Penticton to provide education about clean energy and reducing carbon emissions, he said.

The Pennask turbines in particular have gathered interest from local communities, as they’re so easy to see along the highway, he said.

But Okanagan Wind will not be building more turbines or expanding its sites anytime soon.

“Our two sites were really designed for five turbines each. We are aware of other folks and companies that are exploring developing in the broader Okanagan region, but couldn’t give any details on what the specific plans are,” Simpson said.

There has been an uptick in renewable energy interest across North America, as residents switch to electric cars and electric grids and it’s a matter of balancing the need with the supply, Simpson said.

B.C. has been very renewable-energy-friendly and the wind is a complimentary resource to B.C. Hydro as it’s generally windier in the winter when more energy is being used by communities, Wong said.

Pennask's site has a maximum capacity of 15 megawatts. The electrical demand from the West Kelowna community is roughly 50 megawatts a year, Simpson said, so “if the wind is producing at full-power, we can power a third of the community in West Kelowna roughly.” According to Okanagan Wind, the turbines create enough power for roughly 9,000 homes a year.

The wind turbines have a long life span, lasting between 25 to 40 years, he said. The machines are maintained and updated to make them more efficient to monitor.

The turbines have been well-received by the community and they haven’t had any issues, Simpson said.

Simpson said they’ve been researching the sites since 2008, got environmental impacts and the turbines are located several kilometres away from houses or cabins which minimizes the impact to potential neighbours, he said.


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