DPU Approves Cape Wind’s PPA With NSTAR
Following an eight-month proceeding, the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU) has approved the 15-year power purchase agreement (PPA) between NSTAR Electric Co. and Cape Wind Associates for the Cape Wind project, a 468 MW offshore wind project planned for Nantucket Sound.
The DPU concluded that the benefits of the contract exceeded its costs and that the agreement provides adequate protections for ratepayers. In addition, the DPU says, the contract will assist NSTAR and the commonwealth in complying with the state’s renewable energy and greenhouse-gas emissions-reduction requirements, moderating the system peak load demand, enhancing the electric reliability in the state, and creating jobs.
The agreement, which NSTAR and Cape Wind agreed to last February, is for NSTAR to purchase 27.5% of the output of the Cape Wind project. The contract sets the base price (for electricity, capacity and renewable energy attributes) at $0.187/kWh for 2013, rising 3.5% annually.
The contract allows for upward and downward price adjustments based on a variety of contingencies. Among them is a provision that if the actual project costs, as verified by an independent audit, fall to such an extent that the developer’s rate of return on debt and equity exceeds 10.7%, the contract price of electricity will be reduced to give ratepayers 60% of the benefit of the lower costs.
If the actual project costs are higher than anticipated and reduce this rate of return, the developer would absorb those losses without impact on rates paid by consumers. This mechanism in the contract ensures that the developers of the project will not reap overly large profits, the DPU explains.
The contract is expected to increase electricity customers’ bills by 1.3% to 1.4% for residential customers and by 1% to 2.1% for commercial and industrial customers. On average, the bill of a typical NSTAR residential customer using 500 kWh of electricity per month will increase by $1.16 per month.
With the DPU’s approval of this contract, the Cape Wind offshore wind project has secured contracts for 77.5% of its output. The DPU already approved a 15-year PPA for National Grid to buy 234 MW from the project.
“This decision helps secure the position of Massachusetts as the U.S. leader in offshore wind power, launching a new industry that will create jobs, increase energy independence, and promote a cleaner and healthier environment,” says Cape Wind President Jim Gordon.
“With this decision, Massachusetts electric consumers have secured an abundant, inexhaustible and clean energy resource that provides price stability and avoids all of the external costs of fossil fuels,” he adds. “Finally, our region will no longer be at the end of the energy pipeline; by harnessing an endless supply of offshore wind power, we will be producing homegrown and clean energy right here.”
Shear Wind Deal
Sprott Power Corp. says it has completed the acquisition of Canadian wind energy developer Shear Wind Inc., as well as entered an agreement with a new partner, Genera Avante Holdings Canada Inc., for the operation and development of Shear Wind’s assets.
The acquisition adds the Glen Dhu Wind Farm – Nova Scotia’s largest wind project – to Sprott Power’s portfolio, increasing the company’s operating assets under management from 80 MW to 143 MW.
In addition, the arrangement brings a pipeline of development assets in Alberta, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia that are complementary to Sprott Power’s existing portfolio of development assets. The company says it also has partnered with Genera Avante, part of Spain-based Inveravante, for the operation and development of the various assets.
Sprott Power acquired all of the Class A voting common shares of Shear Wind for consideration of approximately C$0.23 per Shear Wind share, which comprises the base consideration of C$0.22 and the Willow Ridge payment of C$0.05.
China To Overcome Grid Obstacles
China, the world’s leading wind energy market, faces a number of obstacles, including constrained grid capacity, wind power curtailment, offshore wind project delays and a tough financing environment.
According to a new report from MAKE Consulting, these hurdles are expected to cause a 9% reduction in China’s new installed wind power capacity this year (16 GW). However, these factors will likely be overcome in 2013, with China forecast to increase its installed capacity by 19% to 19 GW on the year, MAKE says.
As China focuses on closing the gap between installed and grid-connected capacity, the country’s grid-connected capacity is expected to rise from 17.5 GW to 22 GW by 2016, the firm adds.
According to MAKE, 2012 was a transitional year for the Chinese wind industry, as the government plans to increase project development in heavy load centers and expand wind transmission from wind bases to heavy load centers in an effort to balance wind resources and power consumption.
New developments will be located in fast-growing central regions of China that have denser populations, better grid infrastructure and higher power demand in comparison to many of the existing wind bases, MAKE notes.
The shift to these new wind regions with Class III wind resources and different geographies necessitate new types of wind farms that are designed for low wind speeds, high altitudes, low temperatures and resistance to typhoon conditions. Although adapting to new wind segments will pose a technical challenge for developers, manufacturers and suppliers, it will also bring forth opportunities for new wind markets.
Nevertheless, China’s manufacturing industry is still challenged, with capacity across the supply chain, on average, 2.5 times that of expected 2012 demand, MAKE notes, adding that there are signs of consolidation and closures, but they remain insufficient to close the overcapacity gap at present.
With the Chinese market maturing, Chinese companies are also rapidly expanding their overseas presence with the State Grid Corporation of China and Chinese independent power producers looking to internationalize. These efforts supported turbine exports and made 2012 a record-setting year, MAKE says, adding that the Chinese share of the international turbine market will be around 4%.
Siemens’ wind power business generated a 35% increase in fiscal fourth-quarter revenue, thanks to a conversion of orders from the backlog, the company said in its latest financial report.
All three reporting regions contributed to the increase, with growth in the Americas supported strongly by positive currency translation effects. Higher revenue took fourth-quarter profit up to 134 million euros, despite higher expenses for research and development, marketing, and the selling associated with business expansion.
In the fiscal fourth quarter of 2012, the company’s wind power division took in 2.305 billion euros in orders. However, with the expected near-term expiration of the production tax credit in the U.S., orders in the Americas nearly ceased, and the division focused on growth in other regions, winning a number of major projects in Europe, Asia and Australia.
Siemens also says it plans to reduce its production capacity in the U.S. due to market uncertainty. In September, the company announced that it was laying off 37% of its U.S. wind energy workforce.
Siemens also says it expects challenging market conditions, including substantial pricing pressure, to continue in the coming quarters.
AMSC Cuts 25%
As a result of what the company calls “challenging conditions in the wind power market,” AMSC says it has reduced its workforce by approximately 25% to about 340 employees worldwide, as well as consolidated office space.
The company says the layoffs include reductions in all of its major geographic locations and functions.
“While the long-term prospects for renewable energy remain bright, conditions in the sector today are challenging,” says AMSC President and CEO Daniel P. McGahn. “Financing and cashflow among wind farm developers and wind turbine manufacturers have been constrained, which has impacted growth plans for some of our Windtec Solutions partners.
“Given this environment, we made the difficult but prudent decision to reduce our workforce in order to weather the industry downturn and minimize our cash usage,” he adds.
AMSC says the layoffs will reduce its annualized expenditures by approximately $10 million and will lower its annualized operating expenses, which include non-cash compensation costs, to less than $58 million, once the savings are fully realized in the fiscal quarter ending June 30, 2013.
In total, the company anticipates that it will incur restructuring charges of approximately $3 million to $4 million over the next two quarters relating to the workforce reduction and office consolidations.
AMSC notes that it has revised its financial forecast for the third fiscal quarter ending Dec. 31 as a result of anticipated wind turbine electrical control system shipment delays to some of its Windtec Solutions partners. AMSC now expects that its revenues will exceed $20 million for the quarter and that its net loss for the third quarter will be less than $24 million, or $0.46 per share.
MISO Wind Power
For the first time, wind energy output in the Midwest Independent Transmission System Operator’s (MISO) territory – which includes 11 U.S. states and the Canadian province of Manitoba – surpassed 10 GW.
The new wind power peak of 10.012 GW took place the night of Nov. 23 and represented more than 25% of the generation output being used at the time, MISO says.
“Wind represents one of the fuel choices that helps us manage congestion on the system and ultimately helps keep prices low for our customers and the end-use consumer,” says Joe Gardner, executive director of real-time operations at MISO. “When we have significant quantities of wind being generated, we use less of other, more expensive, generation types to keep the system in balance.”
MISO now manages more than 11 GW of installed wind energy generation in service, with more than 7 GW of projects advancing through the interconnection phase.
Wind Jobs Plummet
In Third Quarter
More than 10,800 U.S. jobs in the clean energy and related sectors were announced in the third quarter of 2012, but that number represents a drastic drop from the second quarter, when 37,000 clean energy jobs were announced, and from the first quarter, when 46,000 jobs were created, according to a new report by Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2).
The main factor in the marked drop was policy uncertainty, especially the looming expiration of the production tax credit (PTC) for wind energy.
“These numbers show that policy matters,” says Judith Albert, executive director of E2. “With clean energy job announcements slowing down, it becomes even more important that Congress and the administration take the right steps to ensure that we don’t lose any more momentum in the clean energy sector that’s helping both our economy and our environment.”
“The election is now over, and the political posturing needs to end,” adds Jacob Susman, founder and CEO of OwnEnergy Inc. “Congress should give businesses like mine the certainty we need to grow, by passing the Senate Finance Committee’s version of the PTC in the upcoming tax-extenders package that will let us all get back to work.”
In the wind industry, manufacturing job announcements fell to zero in the third quarter, compared to eight announcements in the first quarter and two in the second quarter.
Power generation companies announced the most clean energy jobs in the third quarter. Solar, wind and biogas companies announced 40 projects that together would create more than 6,000 jobs.
The E2 report also notes that clean energy job announcements have no political or regional boundaries, as 48% of the announcements were in Republican congressional districts, 46% were in Democratic districts and 6% spanned more than one congressional district.
The top 10 states for green jobs in the third quarter were California, New York, Oregon, Washington, New Mexico, Texas, North Carolina, Minnesota, Illinois and Nevada.
Three states saw significant jumps in announcements for clean energy and related jobs between the second and third quarters of 2012: North Carolina (from No. 26 to No. 7), Washington (from No. 27 to No. 4), and Texas (from No. 15 to No. 6).
Renewables To Rival
Coal By 2035
Renewables – including wind energy and solar power – will become the world’s second-largest source of power generation by 2015 and will close in on coal as the primary source by 2035, according to the recently released 2012 edition of the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) World Energy Outlook (WEO).
However, this rapid increase hinges critically on continued subsidies, IEA stresses. In 2011, these subsidies (including for biofuels) amounted to $88 billion, but over the period to 2035 need to amount to $4.8 trillion. Over half of this has already been committed to existing projects or is needed to meet 2020 targets.
In its analysis, the IEA finds that the extraordinary growth in oil and natural-gas output in the U.S. will mean a sea change in global energy flows. In the “New Policies Scenario,” the WEO’s central scenario, the U.S. becomes a net exporter of natural gas by 2020 and is almost self-sufficient in energy, in net terms, by 2035.
In that scenario, North America emerges as a net oil exporter, accelerating the switch in direction of international oil trade, with almost 90% of Middle Eastern oil exports being drawn to Asia by 2035. Links between regional gas markets will strengthen as liquefied-natural-gas trade becomes more flexible and contract terms evolve, the IEA adds.
Fossil fuels will remain dominant in the global energy mix, supported by subsidies that, in 2011, jumped by almost 30% to $523 billion, due mainly to increases in the Middle East and North Africa. The IEA forecasts that global oil demand will grow by 7 mb/d in 2020 and will exceed 99 mb/d in 2035, by which time oil prices will reach $125/barrel in real terms (over $215/barrel in nominal terms).
The global outlook for natural gas over the coming decades predicts that demand will increase by 50% to 5 trillion cubic meters in 2035. Nearly half of the increase in production to 2035 will come from unconventional gas, with most of this coming from the U.S., Australia and China.
Whether demand for coal continues to rise will depend on the strength of policy decisions around lower-emissions energy sources and changes in the price of coal relative to natural gas, the report stresses. In the New Policies Scenario, global coal demand increases by 21% and is heavily focused in China and India.
Ambitions for nuclear power have been scaled back as countries have reviewed policies following the incident at Fukushima Daiichi, but capacity is still projected to rise, led by China, Korea, India and Russia.
Water is essential to the production of energy, and the energy sector already accounts for 15% of the world’s total water use. Its needs are set to grow, making water an increasingly important criterion for assessing the viability of energy projects.
In some regions, water constraints are already affecting the reliability of existing operations, and they will introduce additional costs. Expanding power generation and biofuels output underpin an 85% increase in the amount consumed (the volume of water that is not returned to its source after use) through 2035.
Wind Output Aids
Wind power could supply up to 12% of global electricity by 2020 while creating 1.4 million new jobs and reducing carbon-dioxide (CO2) emissions by more than 1.5 tons per year, according to the 2012 Wind Energy Outlook (WEO) report, released by the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) and Greenpeace.
Moreover, by 2030, wind energy could provide more than 20% of global electricity.
The report paints a picture of three different futures for the wind industry, looking at scenarios out to 2020, 2030 and, eventually, to 2050, and then measures these scenarios against two different projections for the development of electricity demand: the first based on the IEA’s WEO, and another, more energy-efficient future developed by the ECOFYS consultancy and researchers at the Utrecht University in the Netherlands.
“It is clear that wind energy is going to play a major role in our energy future,” says Steve Sawyer, secretary general of the GWEC. “But for wind to reach its full potential, governments need to act quickly to address the climate crisis, while there’s still time.”
“The most important ingredient for the long-term success of the wind industry is stable, long-term policy, sending a clear signal to investors about the government’s vision for the scope and potential for the technology,” adds Sven Teske, Greenpeace senior energy expert. “The Global Wind Energy Outlook shows that the industry could employ 2.1 million people by 2020 – three times more than today, given the right policy support.”
By 2020, the IEA’s New Policies Scenario suggests that total global wind power capacity would reach 587 GW, supplying about 6% of global electricity, but the GWEC moderate scenario suggests that this could reach 759 GW, supplying 7.7% to 8.3% of global electricity supply.
The advanced scenario suggests that with the right policy support, wind power could reach more than 1.1 TW by 2020, supplying between 11.7% and 12.6% of global electricity and saving nearly 1.7 billion tons of CO2 emissions.
Critique Finds Flaws
In Health Study
The Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) is speaking out against a recently published paper that claims wind turbine noise adversely impacts sleep and health.
The paper – written by Michael A. Nissenbaum, Jeffery J. Aramini and Christopher D. Hanning, who are all directors and/or scientific advisers for the Society for Wind Vigilance – was previously reviewed and considered by experts at the first Environmental Review Tribunal hearing on wind energy in Ontario and in the Queen’s Bench of Saskatchewan case McKinnon v. Martin.
This information was also reviewed by an expert panel on wind turbines and human health commissioned by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, which concluded that “attributing any of the observed associations to the wind turbines (either noise from them or the sight of them) is premature,” CanWEA notes.
Both courts, as well as the Massachusetts independent expert panel, found no justification for halting wind energy development as a result of the information presented in the paper, CanWEA says.
CanWEA and the American Wind Energy Association jointly commissioned experts to conduct a scientific critique of the paper. The review, conducted by Intrinsik Environmental Sciences, identified concerns related to the study’s design, methodology, sample size and administration of questionnaires to participants.
The Intrinsik critique noted that no new sound data were obtained for this study and that the use of limited information visually obtained from other reports “is not scientifically defensible and should not have been used to draw conclusions about the findings of the questionnaires with distance from turbine locations.”
Intrinsik also found that the “authors extend their conclusions and discussion beyond the statistical findings of their study.” Furthermore, the firm concluded that the authors did not demonstrate a statistical link between wind turbines’ distance and sleep quality, sleepiness, and health.
Mass. Offshore Hub
Gets Green Light
The Massachusetts Department of Energy and Environmental Affairs says it has received approval from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to build the New Bedford Marine Commerce Terminal, which will serve as a hub for the nascent offshore wind energy supply chain.
The new facility will handle a high volume of bulk and container shipping, as well as large specialty marine cargo, and will be the first facility in the nation designed to support the construction, assembly and deployment of offshore wind projects.
The terminal will be able to accommodate the docking of vessels that deliver wind turbine parts, as well as barges to transport the assembled components from the port to the installation area. In addition, the terminal area includes significant lay-down space for wind turbine components and trans-shipment cargo.
In its decision, the EPA determined that the project is protective of both human health and the environment, meets the substantive requirements of federal and state environmental standards, and is consistent with the ongoing New Bedford Harbor Superfund remediation.
The project will include significant environmental cleanup of up to 244,600 cubic yards of contaminated sediment that currently rests on the harbor bottom within the footprint of the project, the deposition of which was the result of waste from industrial activities conducted around the harbor during the 1930s and 1940s.
The project will involve the construction of a new coffer-dam-style bulkhead capable of providing berthing space for large shipping vessels, including those delivering offshore wind components and the jack-up barges that will serve as construction vessels for offshore wind projects.
The facility will increase the existing capability in New Bedford Harbor to receive ships up to 500 feet long. In addition to receiving and handling large offshore wind components, the terminal will provide the port with a new capability to receive oversized equipment, such as rail cars and industrial-sized boilers.
The final cost of the terminal is estimated to be approximately $100 million, when the costs of construction, land acquisition, development and environmental permitting, harbor dredging, and environmental remediation are included. The project will be financed by the commonwealth, with contributions from the City of New Bedford, and the investment will be offset by revenue generated by users of the terminal.
Apex Companies’ Waterways division, a marine and infrastructure engineering and environmental services group, will serve as the commonwealth’s permitting, design and construction implementation consultant.
“This facility makes Massachusetts the East Coast hub for offshore wind development while strengthening New Bedford’s position as a port city,” says Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick. “The construction of the terminal helps launch a new clean energy industry in Massachusetts that will create hundreds of jobs, enhance our energy security and reduce fossil-fuel emissions.”
“Cape Wind applauds the commonwealth’s development of the multi-purpose marine facility,” adds Jim Gordon, president of Cape Wind. “The port will bring marine commerce and jobs to New Bedford for years to come, and will contribute to the development of a robust offshore wind industry.”
The facility is scheduled to be completed in 2014.
Texas Sets New
Wind Output Record
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the grid operator for most of the state, says it set a new wind energy record on Nov. 10.
Wind power output in ERCOT’s territory reached 8.521 GW at 10:21 a.m., representing nearly 26% of system load at the time. This surpasses the previous instantaneous record, set the evening of June 19, 2012, by more than 150 MW.
“While added capacity is one reason for this growth, experience and improved tools also are enabling ERCOT to integrate this resource into the grid more effectively than ever before,” notes Kent Saathoff, ERCOT’s vice president of grid operations and system planning.
Nearly 7 GW of the new record included wind power from West Texas wind farms, followed by more than 1.1 GW from wind farms along the Texas coast.
ERCOT has more than 10 GW of wind power capacity, with nearly 21 GW of additional wind generation under review. Moreover, the completion of high-voltage transmission projects in Competitive Renewable Energy Zones by the end of 2013 will improve ERCOT’s ability to move wind power from West Texas to metropolitan areas, where demand on the grid is highest, the grid operator says.
Shift Expected In
The growing proliferation of offshore wind farms will lead to a decline in the wind turbine rotor blade market for onshore installations, says a new report from research firm GlobalData. According to the report, offshore wind farms will account for 11% of all installed rotor blades by 2020, whereas in 2011, they did not even reach 1%.
Rotor blades used for onshore and offshore wind turbines are not significantly different in terms of design, structure or composition; however, larger blades are used for offshore applications due to the larger turbine size and rated power output.
The largest wind rotor blade market in 2011 – by a substantial margin – was China, which held a 59% share, with 37,385 installations. The U.S. came in a relatively distant second, with an installed total of 11,085 rotor blades accounting for 18% of the global market, and India was third, with an 11% share.
GlobalData predicts that global cumulative installed wind power capacity will show steady growth until the end of the decade, increasing from 238.6 GW in 2011 to 658.45 GW by the end of 2020.
However, due to growth in the average turbine capacity, this increase will not be mirrored by the number of wind turbine rotor blades installed during the same period, GlobalData says, adding that from a global total of 63,405 installed in 2011, the figure will actually drop to 45,675 by the end of the decade.
Valmont Industries Inc. – a manufacturer of engineered products for infrastructure and mechanized irrigation equipment for agriculture, and a provider of coating services – has announced that it has acquired wind turbine tower manufacturer Katana Summit’s 300,000 square-foot Columbus, Neb., manufacturing facility.
In September, Katana Summit said that due to federal policy uncertainty, the company would close the Columbus factory, as well as its Ephrata, Wash., facility, if it was unable to find a buyer for those operations. The company did not respond to requests for comment.
Valmont says it intends to repurpose the facility for the manufacture of steel transmission structures for the utility industry.
“The addition of the Columbus, Neb., facility will immediately provide needed incremental manufacturing capacity to serve our utility customers,” says Earl Foust, group president of Valmont’s Utility Support Structures division. “I expect when modifications are complete in 2014, the plant will have approximately $100 million in additional annual capacity.”
The specific terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.
GE, NREL Working
On ‘Fabric’ Blade
GE is working with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University on a project to improve the design, manufacture and installation of wind turbine blades.
According to GE, the new manufacturing approach and blade design could reduce blade-production costs by up to 40%, making wind energy as economical as fossil fuels without government subsidies.
GE’s research will focus on the use of architectural fabrics, which would be wrapped around a metal space frame, resembling a fishbone. Fabric would be tensioned around ribs that run the length of the blade and be specially designed to meet the demands of wind turbine blade operations. Conventional wind blades are constructed out of fiberglass, which is heavier and more labor- and time-intensive to manufacture.
In turn, advancements in blade technology will help spur the development of larger, lighter turbines that can capture more wind at lower wind speeds, GE says, noting that current technology does not easily allow for the construction of turbines that have rotor diameters exceeding 120 meters because of design, manufacturing, assembly and transportation constraints.
Wider, longer wind blades are tougher to move and maneuver, and molds that form the clamshell fiberglass structure cost millions of dollars to acquire. With this new approach to making wind blades, components could be built and assembled on-site, meaning design engineers no longer have to worry about manufacturing and transportation limitations, GE explains.
The $5.6 million ARPA-E project will span three years. GE says its blade architecture will be built to achieve a 20-year life with no regular maintenance to tension fabrics required.
BOEM To Sell
Leases For OCS
The U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has announced that it will hold competitive lease sales for renewable energy development in two wind energy areas (WEAs) in federal waters.
The lease sales, which will be held in 2013, will be the first-ever competitive sales on the Outer Continental Shelf for wind energy. These lease sales cover two WEAs along the Atlantic coast that have high wind resource potential: One area is offshore Virginia, and the other area is of mutual interest offshore Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
The two areas proposed for leasing, which together total 277,550 acres, are expected to be able to support more than 4 GW of wind energy generation, BOEM says.
The proposed lease area offshore Virginia will be auctioned as a single lease and totals about 112,800 acres located about 23.5 nautical miles off the southern part of the state’s coast. It is expected to support more than 2 GW of wind energy generation.
The area of mutual interest proposed for leasing offshore Rhode Island and Massachusetts covers approximately 164,750 acres and is located about 9.2 nautical miles south of the Rhode Island coastline.
The area will be auctioned as two leases, referred to as the North Zone and South Zone. The North Zone lease will consist of about 97,500 acres and has the capacity to support more than 1 GW of wind power generation, and the South Zone lease will consist of about 67,250 acres and is capable of supporting between 350 MW and 1 GW.
BOEM identified the WEAs in conjunction with renewable energy task forces, which included federal, state, local and tribal government partners. BOEM has conducted environmental assessments to analyze the potential effects associated with issuing leases in these WEAs. In addition, BOEM will conduct a comprehensive, site-specific National Environmental Policy Act review, including opportunities for public comment, for the construction of any proposed wind power facility.
The 60-day comment period for the notices ends Feb. 1. BOEM will host a public seminar for each WEA during the comment period to introduce potential stakeholders to the auction format, explain the auction rules and demonstrate the auction process through examples.
Six inches. That was the key measurement on the 24.6 MW Eva Creek Wind Farm, the largest wind project in Alaska.
That was the total clearance available to get components of 12 wind turbines to a project site across an existing railroad bridge in Ferry, Alaska. The bridge over the Nenana River quickly became one of the most significant aspects of the project.
With the exception of gravel and sand for road improvements and concrete production, every tower, blade and crane – not to mention construction equipment and workers – had to cross it.
Detailed planning was crucial months in advance of construction. Initial site clearing and grubbing was done from August to November 2011 before work shut down for winter. Construction resumed in April 2012 when the weather broke and wrapped up in October, just as Alaska’s winter weather arrived.
Getting equipment and material to the work site was a colossal task. Most material, and all vehicles and pieces of equipment, were taken by truck from Fairbanks or Anchorage to Healy, 14 miles southeast of Ferry, Alaska.
Equipment included lattice boom cranes, hydro-boom cranes, scrapers, haul trucks, excavators, loaders, graders, rollers, dozers, tractors with specially designed trailers, a rock crusher, drill rigs and ready-mix concrete trucks. The largest piece of equipment was the Manitowoc 16000 crane, which was broken down to 42 pieces and shipped by barge and rail to Healy from a recently completed project in California.
The equipment and material crossed the bridge and were offloaded at a rail siding. From there, crew members, with all equipment and material, faced about a 10-mile drive up a mountain road at grades as steep as 10% to get to the turbine sites. The turbines were installed in two strings. The road was built specifically for the project and will remain there in order to provide access to the turbines.
Prior to being assembled, the REpower cold-climate-version MM92 turbine parts included 36 tower sections, 36 blades, 12 hubs and 12 nacelles. The blades were shipped on railcars from Arkansas to Healy.
However, to get to the project site, engineers and components alike needed to cross the narrow bridge to Ferry.
To get from the man-camp to the work site, crew members needed to either walk or take a four-wheel all-terrain vehicle on a half-mile trek across a narrow walkway attached to the railroad bridge.
Planning and preparation were critically important to accommodate the job’s tight schedule. All supplies needed to be carefully ordered and shipped to the site. Ferry is a remote town with about 30 residents and no retail outlets. If supplies were needed on the fly, only a limited amount was available at an auto parts store in Healy. Other parts would need to be shuttled in from Fairbanks, about 100 miles away, or Anchorage, 250 miles away.
Of course, wind farm construction in Alaska would not be complete without mentioning the weather. Work was completed on a tight timeline in a narrow window carved out by the arrival of Alaskan spring in April and snowfall in early October.
The land of the midnight sun did provide some extra working hours. During the peak of summer, it was light nearly 24 hours a day. Although most crews worked one shift, some subcontractors opted to run two each day during the longest days. In spring and fall, there were only about seven hours of daylight.
The project received $13.4 million in state grants. It will meet Golden Valley’s goal of having 20% of the system’s peak load generated by renewable resources in 2014.
In total, the project included 13 miles of upgraded or new access roads; 12 REpower turbines; 12 concrete spread foundations; a five-mile underground collection system installed in permafrost, rock and arctic conditions; a 230 kV substation; two operations buildings; two communications towers and one meteorological tower. Two meteorological towers were also relocated.
The turbines were commissioned in early November 2012 and are now generating electricity.
Jill Badzinski is a marketing and communications specialist for Brownsville, Wis.-based Michels Corp., which has 4.1 GW of wind farm experience in the U.S.
New & Noteworthy
DPU Approves Cape Wind’s PPA With NSTAR
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