Whitehorse winters can really blow.
That's why one local company wants to install some new, bigger turbines on Haeckel Hill — to harness the wind energy, and feed it into the local power grid.
"These are 'next generation' wind turbines that we've custom-designed for the cold climate of the Yukon and Canada's northern communities," said Malek Tawashy, director of Whitehorse-based Northern Energy Capital.
The company is proposing to install three 70-metre, 900 kW turbines atop Haeckel Hill. The plan was recently submitted to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-Economic Assessment Board (YESAB), and the board is now seeking public comment.
Tawashy says the turbines — built by a Dutch company — would generate enough power for about 500 to 600 homes. He says the most power could be generated in winter, "when the opportunity is the greatest to displace the most amount of diesel in the Yukon."
Heackel Hill is already home to two turbines, owned by Yukon Energy. The first was installed in 1993 and it's no longer operational. The second was erected in 2000, and it still generates power, but comparatively little.
Tawashy says the new turbines would be about twice the size of the existing ones, and would have a better system to heat the 30 metre blades and reduce build-up of rime ice — something that's been a problem with the older turbines.
"In the past, [that] has been terribly troublesome for the existing turbines on Haeckel Hill, to the extent where they typically don't operate in the winter," Tawashy said.
Tawashy admits that getting the massive hardware in place won't be a breeze — the existing five kilometre road up to the site is in rough shape, with "some tight, hairpin turns."
Part of the company's proposal is to upgrade the road, and Tawashy thinks that will have some added side benefits for the city. Better access means Haeckel Hill and its scenic views could become "a landmark tourist destination as well."
"We see there being a lot of opportunity there," he said.
Existing turbines neglected, says YCS
The project already has the support of Yukon Energy, which leases the site on Haeckel Hill, though Northern Energy Capital still has to negotiate a Purchase Power Agreement (PPA) to feed energy into the grid.
Anne Middler of the Yukon Conservation Society (YCS) is also supportive. She says Yukon has "fantastic wind resources," but the territory has lagged in developing wind power.
"I think it's fair to say that the wind turbines on Haeckel Hill have been neglected," she said.
"At the time when those initial turbines were put in, the Yukon was pioneering this kind of technology in the North. And then, unfortunately, the attention and focus and energy wasn't maintained on them and the turbines themselves weren't maintained."
YESAB is accepting comments on Northern Energy Capital's proposal until May 2. If approved, the company hopes to break ground early next year.