The rushing river waters kept the brand-new turbines turning on Brandywine Creek this week, marking a powerful beginning for the small run of river project.
Many dignitaries at the official opening ceremony said the small project on Brandywine Creek is just the start of a new kind of energy production in B.C.
"I think this is the way of the future," said Sustainable Resource Management Minister Stan Hagen at the ceremony on Friday, Oct. 17.
"I hope that this is just the first of many to come."
Located on the southern edge of Whistler, the Brandywine power project is one of the first small hydroelectric projects to start generating power in the area.
The ribbon cutting ceremony was to be held at the new powerhouse but heavy rains forced the presentation inside, at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler.
A host of dignitaries were on hand, from Whistlers Mayor Hugh OReilly and MP John Reynolds to Squamish Nation Chief Gibby Jacob and Lyle Leo representing the Lilwat Nation.
By Fridays official ceremony Brandywine Creek had already pumped one gigawatt of electricity into B.C. Hydros grid in 10 days of production.
Scott Lyons, a senior vice president with Ledcor Power, a company that partnered in the Brandywine Creek project, said this was the equivalent of taking 100 cars off the road in terms of greenhouse gas emissions.
"Energy demands will continue to rise," he said.
"Where we can meet these needs with green, renewable and sustainable resources, we should."
The project cost $13.5 million to build over the course of one year.
The run-of-river technology works by diverting rushing water from a stream into a powerhouse where the turbines create power and send it to the B.C. Hydro grid.
Once the water goes through the turbines it is returned to the stream.
As such, there are no emissions and the projects use renewable resources.
In 2000/01 B.C. Hydro invited independent power producers to submit proposals for green energy projects.
The utility signed 20-year electricity purchase agreements with 19 small hydro projects, among them Brandywine Creek. Agreements were also signed for projects on Fitzsimmons Creek in Whistler, Furry Creek in Howe Sound, Upper Mamquam in Squamish and Miller and Rutherford Creeks near Pemberton.
In 2002/03 Hydro put out another call for green energy and agreed to purchase power from 14 additional small hydro projects, among them the Ashlu Creek in Squamish and the Mkwalts Creek in Mount Currie.
As the locations of the projects suggest, the terrain in the Sea to Sky corridor lends itself to small run-of-river projects.
Lyons said this is a fledgling industry in B.C. but the province could soon become a centre of excellence for this industry. He added that B.C. could export expertise and technology around the world.
Already Rockford Energy Corporation has had invitations to build projects in Honduras and China. In addition the company has five other projects planned in B.C., three of which are set to go on Squamish rivers, namely Skookum, Crawford and Raffuse Rivers.
Squamish Nation Chief Gibby Jacob said he has been dealing with many projects in the Squamish area.
"I think these kind of projects are legacies that will stand the test of time," he said.
With a plethora of these projects in the Sea to Sky corridor there have been concerns raised about the approval process and environmental monitoring standards.
Hagen, whose ministry is in charge of approvals for water, called the IPP process "very balanced."
Resolutions dealing with IPPs were endorsed at last months meeting of the Union of B.C. Municipalities in Vancouver, brought forward by Susan Gimse, Area C director of Squamish-Lillooet Regional District.
Among those resolutions was a request that the provincial government develop clear and measurable criteria to evaluate IPPs against community, social, land use and environmental values, as well as an agreed upon "green energy" standard for both the generation and power line components.
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