Implementing windfarms

Friday, December 30th, 2005

Proposed Squamish plant would serve global market

Brian Lewis

A $150-million wind-turbine manufacturing plant employing up to 250 workers soon could be blowin’ in the legendary Squamish winds.

Windfarm markets are global. — AFP

If a Kelowna-based energy business developer can pull it off, up to 500 new jobs could soon be blowin‘ in the legendary Squamish winds to offset the impending closure of the Howe Sound community’s Woodfibre pulp mill.

Rick West, who heads Westtech Energy, a Kelowna company that develops small wind-driven electricity generators for residential use, now has his eyes on a much larger project — a major wind-turbine manufacturing plant in Squamish to serve commercial windfarm markets in Canada, the U.S. and offshore.

West said in an interview yesterday that the $150-million manufacturing facility would build the massive wind turbines in four sizes, from 50 kilowatts to one megawatt.

A one-megawatt turbine supplies enough power to run up to 1,000 homes. The plant would employ about 250 full-time and there would be another 250 spin-off jobs in the area, West estimates.

West says he’s already acquired the rights to a five-hectare plant site that has a 250,000 square-foot building. The property is located beside the region’s rail tracks and also has access to Squamish’s deep-water port facilities.

“Being beside the rail tracks means we can export to the rest of Canada and to the U.S. at the drop of a pin,” West says. “And having access to deep water will allow us to export globally.”

West has formed a private company, Quantum Power Corp., to develop the manufacturing plant.

He’s also working with the District of Squamish and local First Nations to bring the project to fruition and will be working closely with the federal government, which has funding programs to assist in developing wind-energy business initiatives.

While funding for the project is far from complete, West says he already has about $25 million from private investors. He’s counting on up to about $100 million from federal-government development programs that are linked with the Kyoto Accord.

As the project develops, West says the company will likely seek additional development capital from the equity markets.

“I’ve already had telephone calls from brokerages offering to set us up as a public company,” he says.

Although Squamish mayor Ian Sutherland could not be reached for comment yesterday, he told the Squamish Chief newspaper in its latest edition that the district has been looking into wind-power generation for some time.

“The potential for jobs and our local economy is huge if it all comes together,” he said.

“It certainly won’t erase the problem of Woodfibre closing but, when we get to the point of having another 250 high-paying jobs in manufacturing, it is always a good thing for the local economy.”

The company would also use Squamish to build working demonstration models of its turbines, which would take advantage of the Squamish winds, West added.

© The Vancouver Province 2005

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