Monday, February 9, 2009

The construction of IPP projects are environmentally damaging

The scope and scale of the construction is so small compared to the environment around them that the impact of the construction is in most cases unmeasurable.

It only becomes an issue if there is a need to construct a long access road through a previously unroaded area. Each year in BC we construct a lot of resource roads and these ones are only a tiny amount of them. One of the most important thing to do with re

Let us look at the projects belonging to Plutonic Power. Yes, they have a lot of projects slated for are area on the coast north of Powell River, but the impact is not dramatic.

In Bute Inlet they are talking about 17 projects with about 440 km of powerlines and use of around 1050 hectares of land. This in an area that is 350 000 hectares in size. This to make it possible to build 1027 MW of generating capacity and produce just under 3000 GW/h per year.

3000 GW/h will supply about 5% of the electrical needs of BC. It will further reduce the need to import coal produced electrical power from Alberta.

So is ten square kilometres of land being used for the projects a lot? Not really. It is about the same size as Oak Bay. It is much smaller than a lot of the reservoirs that have been created to produce power in BC. The region they are in is 3500 sq km in size, 50% larger than the Capital Regional District, 2/3s the size of PEI.

The construction that will be done for these 17 projects will be done to much higher standards than has been expected of industrial development in the past. The monitoring will be extensive and detailed. There will be no scope for a bad job.

IPP construction is handled very differently than logging.

The required roads and the powerlines could lead to some habitat fragmentation, but generally nothing dramatic.

Since the construction of the actual intakes and powerplants will take place in locations that have been considered for impact on fish, the potential for harm to fish populations is very, very low.

These projects are small, small enough that they will not cause any measurable impact during their construction.

If this power were to be produced by fossil fuels, the CO2 impact would be about 2 000 000 tonnes per year. That is the CO2 emissions from 130 000 British Columbians.

5 comments:

Ivan said...

Bernard,

You write that the impact of the Plutonic project in Bute Inlet is “not dramatic”, considering that it is only projected to use 10 square kilometers.

The ecological impact of an industrial project in a wilderness area is more than its mere square mileage. A simple example: one of the power plants that Plutonic plans to build in Bute Inlet will be situated near the Orford River. In order to bring in the heavy equipment, trucks, materials, and construction workers required to build and maintain that power plant, Plutonic is going to widen and refit an existing dirt road and upgrade an airstrip and barge facility.

What’s the problem? The Orford River is home to one of the most significant grizzly bear populations on the west coast. Grizzlies are thriving there because the Orford River is salmon bearing. I was there last summer with my wife. Pictures of those magnificent animals fishing with their cubs can be seen on her website: www.tidelife.com.

Plutonic is planning to go right through that bear habitat. Not near it, not around it. Right through it. To see it for yourself, click on the following link on the Environmental Assessment Office website and select the last link of the page called Figure 36.

http://a100.gov.bc.ca/appsdata/epic/html/deploy/epic_document_316_27406.html

(or alternatively, google “figure 36 orford bay”.)

Grizzlies are very sensitive to human disturbance, particularly noise. When they encounter such disturbances, they tend to leave. That’s especially true for females raising young cubs, as is the case on the Orford. So the risk of displacing those bears and cutting them off from their food source is very high, and it cannot be measured in square kilometers.

A few days ago at the Sechelt open house, I asked Plutonic CEO Donald McInnes how his company would ensure that the bears would not be disrupted. His response was that it was too early to tell. After studying the site for five years, and just a few days before public comments are to be officially closed, they still don’t know what to do with the bears. Not exactly what I would call “extensive and detailed monitoring” to use your own words.

The saddest part of this story is that we won’t even be using the power produced by Plutonic in Bute Inlet. Indeed, BC’s energy consumption is highest in the winter and lowest in the summer, following a V-shaped curve from January to December. On the other hand, the river diversion projects planned in Bute Inlet would produce most of their energy in the summer and very little in the winter, following an A-shaped curve. Electricity cannot be stored, so we know that British Columbians won’t be using that energy.

Who then will use Bute Inlet’s power? California follows an A-shaped curve for its energy usage which closely matches that of our private river plants. Logic suggests that the Bute Inlet privatization project is export-driven. This is confirmed by Plutonic’s CEO himself when he states that “one of the reasons for this initiative is to help California meet its needs” (Vancouver Sun, June 1, 2007).

So, in summary, I am personally very unhappy that the grizzly bears of the Orford are at risk of eviction and starvation, because large corporations have agreed with utility providers and government officials that B.C. ratepayers should subsidize a scheme to feed California’s thirsty air conditioners.

The impact of Plutonic on Bute Inlet will be very dramatic, indeed.

Ivan Doumenc
Vancouver, BC

Anonymous said...

PLUTONIC'S 1027MW RUN OF RIVER PROJECT IN BUTE INLET WILL BE THE MOST DESECRATING AND DAMAGING TO THE LOCAL ENVIRONMENT.
THE CALIFORNIA POWER COMMISSION HAS STATED THAT ANY RUN OF RIVER PROJECTS OVER 39 MEGAWATTS IN CAPACITY IS CONSIDERED "D I R T Y."
AND THEY WILL NOT IMPORT POWER FROM THESE FACILITIES.
PLUTONIC'S PRESIDENT STATES THAT THIS IS WHERE THE POWER WILL BE EXPORTED, I SEE A IRONY HERE.
I CONCLUDE THAT PLUTONIC'S PROJECT IS A WASTE OF TIME AND THREATENS THE ENDANGERED GRIZZLY BEAR HABITAT. UNFORTUNATELY B.C HAS WEAK SPECIES AT RISK LAWS SO HABITAT PRESERVATION IS PLACED ON THE BACK BURNER AND FORGOTTEN, THIS IS HOW THE CAMPBELL ADMINISTRATION HANDLES ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES AND PLUTONIC IS THE BEST EXAMPLE OF PROVING,B.C. HAS NO LAWS TO PROTECT GRIZZLY BEAR HABITAT.

Bernard von Schulmann said...

To Anon

I checked with the California Energy Commission and what you are saying does not seem to exist. The woman down in Sacramento could not think of what you are referring to.

Clearly they are interested in more hydro and very interested in small scale hydro.

Any links you might like to provide?

Ivan said...

Perhaps Anonymous was referring to a study ordered by California's Pacific Gas & Electric Company in June 2008?

“Based upon PG&E’s initial research, BC Run-Of-River hydro facilities would not be qualified as RPS eligible resources.” Under California legislation, hydro generation facilities are RPS-eligible if they meet all of the following criteria:

* Do not cause a change in volume or timing of stream flow;
* Are less than or equal to 30 MW; and
* Do not cause an adverse impact on instream beneficial uses.

Links:

http://www.hydroreform.org/sites/www.hydroreform.org/files/PGE%20BC%20Energy%20Study%206%2008.pdf

http://www.hydroreform.org/news/2008/07/02/pg-e-study-looks-at-british-columbia-run-of-river-projects-as-potential-green-energy-for-california


Ivan Doumenc
Vancouver, BC

Bernard von Schulmann said...

RPS is the Renewable Portfolio Standard. No BC run of the river hydro project has yet applied for this certification, and California is open to certifying them.

All large scale hydro from BC and California is not RPS eligible.

The letter your reference notes that the legislation could be changed to allow for BC run of the river projects to be certified for RPS. In fact that is what PG&E doing at the moment.

Even without the certification, there will still be a market for the power.