Recent Items – 2002
August 9, 2002 — Mark Nielsen,Daily News Staff
The ham radio tower on Earl Leer’s property north of Dawson Creek is being used to capture more than radio waves these days. Look up, way up, and you’ll find two tiny spinning monitors that are being used to gauge the feasibility of establishing a turbine to turn the power of the wind into electricity. Within a year or so, it will be known if those gusts of breeze will do more than make the many trees on Leer’s land sway.
Over that time, Janna Switzer, who recently completed a bachelor degree in environmental and conservation science at the University of Alberta, will collect the data with the help of a special reader. The results must show an average speed of at least 15 km/h, the minimum to get a turbine turning, but Switzer believes that should not be a problem. She noted that 15 km/h is the average speed at the Fort St. John airport, where the monitor is placed a mere 10 metres above ground, while those on Leer’s tower are placed at 50 and 30 metres high.
“This is quite a bit higher and we’re hoping that the wind speed will be higher than that,” Switzer said as she looked on at the tower.
Leer’s tower isn’t the only location. Sci-Tech North has spent $32,000 on equipment, including a 50-metre-tall tower, enough for five monitoring stations, that are being placed throughout the B.C. Peace. What did it take to convince Leer to help out?
“Absolutely nothing,” said Sci-Tech North director Don Pettit. “He’s way ahead of us. He’s been a wind and renewable energy advocate for years.”
Indeed, Leer’s interest in energy dates back to when he was growing up in Saskatchewan, where at age six he carved a windmill that is still turning. Present-day, he’s helping a friend in New Denver restore a stream-powered generator and is seeking a contract with B.C. Hydro. And he’s a member of the very-fledgling Peace Energy co-operative, aimed at bringing renewable energy solutions to the region.
Along with being environmentally-friendly, Leer sees such ventures as directly benefiting the local economy if they are able to produce power for the province’s grid.
“I would like to see small energy companies set up and then the money comes back and is spent in the community and makes the community wealthier,” he said.
Besides wind speed, wind direction, air temperature and sunlight will also be monitored. It’s state-of-the-art equipment according to Switzer.
“Our data will be compatible with other data being collected in other areas of the country; and will go towards creating a detailed map of the Peace, and eventually B.C. and Canada,” she said.