Wind power closer to reality in northern B.C.

DOKIE RIDGE, BRITISH COLUMBIA - It will be a few months before the electricity flows on to the grid, but British Columbia can finally point to a wind power turbine as part of its green energy revolution.

Proponents of the Dokie wind project put the blades on their first turbine in northeast B.C. October 6, and say they will have eight towers up and ready to generate power for the BC Hydro grid by January.

That's half the estimated number of towers that project developers EarthFirst Canada announced in their second quarter financial statement Aug. 14 — but given the company's financial challenges, and a loan-wary global investment market, they say they're happy about their progress.

The project is situated on Dokie Ridge in the Rocky Mountain foothills near W.A.C. Bennett Dam on the Peace River.

Each tower will produce three megawatts of power at peak.

EarthFirst initiated the project in 2002, and has a 20-year power sales agreement with BC Hydro to sell 144 megawatts of clean energy onto the grid — providing they can find financing to complete the project.

In August the company announced that its backer, WestLB bank of New York, cancelled a financing arrangement after EarthFirst increased its project completion cost estimate by $35 million to $360 million and concurrently released an engineering study that downgraded Dokie's estimated electricity output by more than two per cent.

Company shares were selling at $1.99 on the TSX Venture on April 11, 2008, and closed October 10 in Toronto at 19 cents.

EarthFirst has retained a special committee to investigate a wide range of potential options for its future.

A sale of the Dokie project, or the entire company, are on the table, president and CEO Linda Chambers said.

"The share price took quite a beating and the board's view was, on behalf of the shareholder, that they had to look at any number of options, not just the one option of continuing to try to finance the project," Chambers said from her office in Calgary.

She said EarthFirst remains in contact with WestLB, and she herself was in New York 10 days ago to meet with officials of the Germany-based bank.

"We continue to seek out options to pursue project financing if at all possible.

"That has continued on, but the board took the view that you can't just have all of your eggs in one basket. We've said to the advisors, go out and start sourcing a variety of different opportunities for the company — and that's what's been happening."

Chambers noted that EarthFirst made clear in August its intention to use existing resources to advance the project as far as possible this year.

"All along we have said to the market, and everyone, that it's our intention to continue on with the project and the project construction. That has never been a question as we have gone through this process.

"The first turbine is up. The towers are up, almost completed for two more turbines. It's been our goal to have all [eight] turbines erected by mid-November and we are on track for that."

She said she expects them to be moving power onto the provincial electricity grid by "early January."

"It's pretty exciting to see them," David Huggill, western policy manager for the Canadian Wind Energy Association said.

"It's interesting when you tell people outside of British Columbia that there are no spinning turbines there. They are quite shocked given B.C.'s reputation for being focused on environmental sustainability."

EarthFirst director Ron Percival said the current financial climate isn't ideal, but he's very excited about the green energy potential of Dokie Ridge.

"It's a beautiful wind site. When we started this about six years ago, only a few companies were looking at wind energy. Today there are multiple players in British Columbia.

"People have come around to understand that B.C. does have a very good commercial wind resource and it's going to be helpful to meeting B.C.'s future energy needs with clean, renewable power."


in Year