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Crown lands open window for wind power (03/05)

The opening up of Crown properties to wind power development has opened a door for a North Bay consultant. Terry Wojick owns Northern Wind Power, a wind assessment firm.
The opening up of Crown properties to wind power development has opened a door for a North Bay consultant.

Terry Wojick owns Northern Wind Power, a wind assessment firm. He has been working with three major North American wind energy companies for the past year, scouting out potential sites in the North Bay-Mattawa area and promoting this part of northeastern Ontario for future wind farm development.

His efforts are beginning to pay off.

Three of his clients were among the 16 companies selected by the Ontario government in January to assess wind power potential on 21 selected Crown land sites.

It is part of the province's latest push to increase Ontario's green energy capacity.

Wojick declined to identify any of his clients for confidentiality reasons.

"They're companies established in the wind industry that have had success in other projects," he says.

The Ministry of Natural Resources was more forthcoming.

West Wind Development Inc., a Canadian subsidiary of UPC Wind Management, one of Europe's largest and most successful wind park developers, is assessing a land-based project north of Rutherglen near Talon Lake east of North Bay.

West of Mattawa, AIM PowerGen Corp. is studying a site east of Samuel Champlain Park. The company has one of the more advanced projects in Ontario with the 99-megawatt Erie Shores Wind Farm. It is expected to be commissioned in 2006.

North of North Bay, Gaia Power Technology, a New York-based leader in energy storage applications, is evaluating a Crown land site selected south of Tomiko Lake.

The government says each of the 21 sites will undergo an environmental screening that, if successful, could result in wind power testing within months.

After initial testing is complete, the remaining potential sites must undergo a full environmental assessment before a wind farm can be established.

Wojick's most advanced project is an agreement between the City of North Bay and Toronto's West Wind Development for a wind assessment study.

He expects to obtain a building permit by mid-February in order to raise a meteorological tower on the Old Callander Road. Fitted with sensors, the tower will gather wind data to determine the site's feasibility for large wind turbines. The information is remotely gathered by a computer at Wojick's home.

The process should take 6-12 months.

With FedNor trade adviser Jay Aspin, Wojick has been making presentations and suggestions of possible sites to various companies in an attempt to entice developers to come northward.

Aspin says the North Bay area has all the "natural criteria" and necessary electricity infrastructure for wind development beginning with the 55-km long Lake Nipissing.

"One of the keys in wind power is having a long flat surface with prevailing westerly winds" surrounded by a high escarpment and good electricity connections.

"I believe we're really a fertile area for wind development."

Working in tandem, Aspin contacted the companies and made them aware the Ontario government was making Crown land sites available while Wojick went out and scouted specific sites to bring the developers into the fold.

With his four projects underway locally, as well as a Temagami group working on a wind energy project for the past two years, Wojick says North Bay is on the developers' radar screens for sources of wind power.zs

"Interest in this area is pretty good. Not everyone is rushing up here to stake claims but there is interest in coming up here and it's only going to get stronger."

Aspin says with the MNR in the process of opening up additional Crown land sites soon, it should mean more opportunity for Wojick.

The Ministry of Natural Resources estimates that 3,000 megawatts of wind power capacity could be developed on private and Crown land in Ontario.

The province believes wind farms on both private and Crown land could generate enough energy to reduce Ontario's dependence on coal-fired generating plants.

"We are in the very early stages," says MNR spokesman Steve Payne of the possible future development of these Crown land sites. "These are proposal interests. They are now going to be screened and if found suitable, they can start wind testing within a couple of months (followed) by a whole round of environmental assessment before anything goes up."

Payne says it could be a minimum of two years or more before wind turbines appear on the horizon.

To further entice wind energy companies, the province is developing a wind atlas Web site to identify areas with the wind power potential.

Scheduled to be online this spring, visitors to the web site will be able to zoom in on areas of interest and click to reveal precise wind speed and wind power density for that location.

Aspin praises the initiative, calling it "another tool to assist wind companies in development."

Wojick is a graduate of Algonquin College's mechanical engineering program. He has plans to someday develop entire large-scale wind farms, and says his work has shifted in new directions since launching his business two years ago.

"It's gone in a way I didn't expect. I thought it would be more into wind assessment, filing reports in studying wind regimes...but I find myself into marketing and business planning" and erecting meteorological towers.

"It's really grown. I've put up five towers in Ontario (three in Northern Ontario, including one on Manitoulin Island, one in Barrie and two in southern Ontario). I figured between five and ten, so I'm hitting my targets but I'm more a tower installer than (taking on) whole projects."

To erect the towers, he calls upon some part-time contractors, but if the City of North Bay's wind project becomes feasible, Wojick can foresee himself having to add full-time help.