By Gillian Slade
Alberta Newspaper Gorup
Capital Power says the Whitla Wind turbine project is more than two thirds complete and has brought significance business to the southeast region during the construction phase.
Construction of the overall project is 77 per cent complete right now for the wind turbines, said Jerry Belikka, director of government relations Capital Power. At times there have been 300 workers on site.
“The contracts for work, equipment, salaries and everything else for local firms, in the last nine months has been about $70 million,” said Bellikka.
The operations and maintenance building is complete as well as the electrical substation. All the foundations for all the turbines, 56 in total, have been poured and the soil returned on top of them so that you only see a small mount of concrete, he explained. Each foundation is 60 feet by 60 feet, and 15 feet deep.
“There are 53 truck loads of concrete in each one of those and multiple tons of reinforcement bar. They are very big and heavy and purposely made like an upside-down pyramid so they’ve got the stability you need,” said Bellikka.
The whole process involves first digging the hole for the foundation after a road is excavated through the farm field, he said. After the foundation is filled with concrete it is tested for strength before covering with top soil. The tower sections, usually four, are brought in on trucks. These are fixed to the foundation with massive bolts.
A nacelle, about the size of a school bus, is then hoisted to the top of the tower followed by each blade being attached. There are three blades per wind turbine.
“We can put up a tower, depending on wind conditions, in a day. Sometimes we can get a couple done per day,” said Billikka.
The site of course was specifically chosen because it is windy but during installation you need wind to be relatively calm.
“You can imagine how much one of these blades would start swinging once you get it 90 to 100 metres in the air with a strong breeze,” said Bellikka.
The turbine towers are now 69 per cent complete. More than 60 per cent of the electrical circuits are done.
“There are large underground electrical circuits that loop several turbines into the substation,” said Bellikka.
The underground circuits have all been put in and are being tested and energized, he said.
“We are right on track … Our goal is to be operational by the end of the year,” said Bellikka, stating it is looking good to meet that target.
There has been a rumour circulating that some components of the wind turbines had to be returned to Sweden or Germany. Bellikka says there is no validity to that rumour at all.
“We don’t get our components from either Sweden or Germany,” said Bellikka.
There has been a little bit of a bottleneck on the U.S. side with trains.
“We’ve just had a train that came with power components last Saturday,” said Bellikka. “We have another scheduled to arrive tomorrow (Saturday).”
The blades, which are 90 metres long, are manufactured in Colorado, said Billikka. This requires special rail cars, several flat-bed cars linked together to accommodate the blades.
The rail yard in Foremost has been busy. A special area was constructed to stockpile the equipment that comes in on the trains.
Each wind turbine is expected to produce 3.6 megawatts of electricity, which is enough power for 3,600 homes, he said.
“The whole project will do roughly 200 megawatts, which is enough to power about 200,000 homes,” said Billikka.
The power is sold to the grid. The lifespan of the wind turbines is 25 years, he said.
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