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Furry Creek turning power in new year



Government announces tax exemptions for Independent Power Producers

On the very day that Ontario residents sat in the dark without power, a small company celebrated the construction of a new hydroelectric station on Furry Creek.

Last Thursday Eaton Power Corporation held a groundbreaking ceremony for their run-of-river project on the creek, which will power 6,000 average homes each year once it is operational.

The project has been under construction since March and will be finished by the end of the year, with power flowing by March 2004.

This is one of the first run of river projects developed since B.C. Hydro put out a call for green energy in 2001. Since then B.C. Hydro has made a voluntary commitment to meet at least 10 per cent of new electricity demand through green energy to 2010.

Chair of the power company Dan Eaton said these small hydroelectric projects are pivotal, if the province wants to avoid building another large-scale dam or thermal energy plant to cope with its energy needs in the future.

"If you don’t start doing small projects like this now, you’ll be building another Burrard Thermal because (the power) has to come from somewhere," said Eaton.

"No one wants it in their backyard. No one wants a new transmission line running from the Peace (River) to the Lower Mainland and yet they all want power. So it’s a no-win.

"If you don’t do small projects like these, which are fairly benign, you’re going to end up having to pay the piper eventually."

The company, which was formed two years ago, has more than 30 applications for other projects on creeks and rivers throughout the province.

B.C. Hydro’s call for green energy sparked a flurry of activity for small hydroelectric projects. Eaton likens the claims on the rivers to gold claims in the Klondike more than 100 years ago. Currently in the Sea to Sky corridor there are more than 150 claims on local rivers. Eaton said most of the applications will never become working projects.

"Like in any euphoria people think there’s a big opportunity here," he said.

"It’s like running off to the Klondike in 1899 staking gold claims, an awful lot of them never got developed and most of the people that went up there left eventually without any gold in their pockets.

"It’s a very complex business. It takes an awful lot of pooled information and talent to build one of these things. And most of these won’t get built."

Eaton Power Corporation was formed with Dan Eaton and two partners. They all have backgrounds in the energy sector and two years ago they seized the opportunity to develop this renewable energy resource.

Run-of-river projects essentially take water from a creek or river, divert it into a pipe and into a powerhouse where it is used to generate electricity through a turbine. The water is then returned back into the creek.

Eaton said the company spent one year and close to $1 million in the mandatory environmental studies for the project.

In this particular project a natural waterfall acts as a barrier for any salmon and in the portion where the water is diverted there is no salmon spawning activity.

There has been opposition to other run-of-river projects in the area.

Kayakers opposed a project on Rutherford Creek two years ago and managed to work out a deal with the power company for a man-made kayak facility running next to the river.

Likewise Pemberton residents spoke out at a community meeting en masse last year after they realized how high and how many power lines would come with the Miller Creek project.

There are more applications in the works for projects on the Ryan, Ure, Ashlu and Fitzsimmons Creeks, which may materialize into power stations.

At the groundbreaking ceremony on Thursday government officials announced that IPP projects would get a sales tax exemption for parts of their equipment as part of the province’s new energy plan.

"This announcement will build on the provincial energy plan, which is designed to stimulate economic development and deliver environmental improvements," said Richard Neufeld, provincial minister of energy and mines.

"Providing a tax exemption of this nature to independent power producers ensures continued private-sector development of new and innovative energy sources while also generating investment and job opportunities throughout the province."

The tax exemption will save Eaton Power Corporation roughly $80,000 in their $17 million project.

"I think as much as anything it’s symbolic," said Eaton.

"It’s showing that the government is starting to do something to support green energy."

The project, which is on Squamish land in between Britannia Beach and Porteau Cove, includes a deal for part ownership with the Squamish Nation.

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