Alternative Energy Growing in the Kootenays

Wind Energy has been around for, well, since forever.

By Rick Butler

New and exciting technology is being developed almost daily to harness wind energy. We met with Rick West, the president of West Tech Energy in Kelowna B. C. who is currently developing a small Vertical Axis Wind Turbine (VAWT). Rick maintains this turbine can produce up to 3 kilowatts of power with wind speeds below 18 miles per hour. If successful this unit would be ideal for micro installations, such as on the roof of one’s home. This could take a house “off the grid”, rendering a self sufficiency relative to electricity, especially if combined with a solar panel and battery back-up for days the wind does not blow. The exciting thing about producing your own energy is that any excess power must be sold back to the grid, thereby turning your metre backwards. The latest estimate is a pay back of 3 to 5 years. If the government re-instates the 1.2 cents per kwh credit for wind power, the payback would be much quicker.

Mr. West informed us he has a 3 kw VAWT in test mode at the Sea Bird Island First Nations just east of Agassiz B.C., so off we went to inspect this unit. Dwayne, the Maintenance Manager, showed us the site and filled us in on the results thus far. The turbine is not producing as expected at this time; however, West Tech will be installing a gearing mechanism to speed up the rpm to a sufficient level as to maintain 3 kw of power. If successful this could revolutionize micro-wind generating and make it affordable for the average home owner.

This small VAWT will have many applications; one of which is powering traffic lights. Some large cities record expenditures of 7 million dollars a year for police to control traffic at intersections during times of power failures. What a savings on our tax bills if this comes to fruition, plus the added safety factor. Cottages and remote homes could be totally “off the grid”. We will keep in touch with Mr. West to monitor his progress in this regard and wish him well in his endeavours.

Small Resort is “Off the Grid”

Trailing through the Kootenays, we came across Coyote Springs Resort, just south of Galena Bay on Highway 23. We met Margaret-Ann and Rob, owners of this beautiful, natural camping and recreational facility nestled on the shores of Arrow Lake. This hard working, innovative couple and their 7 year old son, Cody, built this rustic resort from the ground up and are very proud of the fact they are totally “off the grid”. Their home and offices are electrified totally by a tiny 300 watt water turbine powered from the stream flowing through their property. In addition, they have two 75 watt solar panels with a battery back-up system. Another eight, 75 watt solar panels with battery back-ups supply power to the two cabins on the property. Rob told us too much power is often produced for their needs, so he has to turn on additional lighting to use up the excess, as he is not connected to the grid at all. The water turbine is connected to a hose which is gravity fed from the stream; this flow is sufficient to turn the little turbine generator, which is mounted in an old Coleman cooler, at 3000 rpm. I am amazed at how a little ingenuity results in enough electricity to run this resort.

There is much more to this gem in the Kootenays. Learn all about it in Irene’s blog (dated June 29) on this area of our adventure.

Geo-Thermal Power in use at Ainsworth Hot Springs Resort.

We met with Megan, Assistant Manager, and Tom, Head of Maintenance, for a tour and info regarding the use of thermal power in the resort. There is an abundance of heat energy here as a result of the natural hot springs; however, harnessing it is a challenge. To date they have been successful in utilizing this energy source to heat the second floor of the resort during winter. In addition, the heat is sufficient to maintain their hot water requirements, thereby saving the energy cost of traditional hot water heating. The resort also has its own chlorination plant for drinking water which is acquired from the nearby stream, as well as its own bio-sewage treatment facility. Staff and management of this complex are to be congratulated for their efforts on the “Green” front. The 2nd place showing for the Kingfisher Award of 2003 is well deserved. Keep up the good work.

Refer to Irene’s blog of June 29 to indulge in some vicarious relaxation at Ainsworth.


  1 comment for “Alternative Energy Growing in the Kootenays

  1. at

    Hey Rick- tell me again what is micro power? How does it work?

    Thanks for the inspiring thoughts about reducing energy. Jodi and I are conspiring a plan to possibly build a zero-emmision housing project! Keep me informed!

    And have you seen Go-Further yet? It’s a film by woody harelson- they drive a bio-diesel bus (hemp oil engine) down the whole west coast on a ‘simple organic living’ tour. Check it out if you can find it on your journeys!


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