Incomappleux IPP proponent TransAlta says project long way off

This is the second part of a two part story. Incomappleux Valley power project opponents rally support appeared last week.

This is the second part of a two part story. Incomappleux Valley power project opponents rally support appeared in the Sept. 26 issue of the Times Review.

The company proposing an independent power project in the Incomappleux Valley says the project is still at an early stage and many conditions will have to be met before it proceeds, if at all.

This message came in response to objections from regional environmental groups such as the West Kootenay EcoSociety and the North Columbia Environmental Society, who opposed the application. They say the remote Incomappleux Valley southeast of Revelstoke contains a rare ancient rainforest and should be spared from industrial development, including a 45 MW power plant and a 75-kilometre long power line running down the valley.

Shannon Wever is the Manager of Business Development for Calgary-based TransAlta Corporation, an energy generator and marketer with international operations including wind, hydro, natural gas and coal electricity generation.

She said TransAlta’s application for an investigative licence this summer was due to bureaucratic changes directed by B.C. government authorities.

“We were actually quite surprised with the change in the Crown … water power policy,” Wever said. “We really hadn’t any plans to progress this project at all.” However, changes announced by the B.C. government this summer required IPP applicants to seek investigative licences and move forward with developing their applications. The bureaucratic change was designed to bring IPPs in line with similar Crown land uses, such as energy and mineral exploration. The idea is to weed out those who’ve staked claims but aren’t developing them — potentially freeing the land from indefinite claims.

Wever said the project is still a long way off. If they’re successful in gaining an investigative licence, the company would start with non-invasive studies and proceed further if warranted. “Our intent with this is really just to have a desktop feasibility study. We’ll look closer at some of the site characteristics, looking at what we know about the area and existing studies. Geotechnical studies into a site like this are very expensive. Unless we see the potential for a clean call coming we simply couldn’t justify the cost of doing those kind of studies.”

After initial studies the next step is installing hydrological meters to see if water flows could justify the project.

Marcie McAuley is a communications director for TransAlta. She said that TransAlta would only plan to move forward if they thought the project was viable, saying logistical and environmental concerns were factored in. “I think no matter what, TransAlta’s philosophy when we work on a project is we have to understand all the factors,” McAuley said. “You responsibly move ahead. You have to understand what are the environmental impacts, the economic impacts.

“Stakeholder input is going to be important to that,” McAuley added. “We have to be in a place that’s going to work for both TransAlta and for our neighbours.”

She said TransAlta wouldn’t move forward, “without clearly understanding the site and whether it’s a feasible project.”

The key to any IPP project moving forward is securing an ‘energy purchase agreement’ from BC Hydro. This contract guarantees electricity sales to the Crown corporation, essentially green-lighting the project by allowing the proponent to seek financing.

Wever doesn’t expect Hydro will issue any more of these ‘calls to power’ for a few years.

TransAlta is currently awaiting to see if their investigative licence application will be successful.


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