Wind Construction in Ontario, Canada
September 16, 2011
Engineering and construction of winder power projects in agricultural settings: a contractor's perspective of key issues to be considered in project planning and development.
The successful completion of a wind project requires collaborative, in-depth planning throughout the development process. From the initial feasibility study to final commissioning and operation, there are a myriad of issues which must be addressed to ensure the engineering and construction proceed as planned, and within schedule and budget.
It is important to engage key stakeholders, including the EPC contractor, early in the development process to ensure the project is constructed with the highest safety and quality standards while also meeting all permitting and approval requirements. Furthermore, implications to local communities (landowners and municipal officials) must also be carefully considered.
While the preceding issues are common in most wind projects throughout North America, there are also unique challenges associated with wind farm construction in southwestern Canada that can make the process even more challenging and complex. Following are some examples of key issues that can significantly impact the engineering and construction of wind power projects throughout the agricultural lands in Ontario:
Design and Development
The competitive market for land development and complex land parcel arrangements in Ontario trends a less comprehensive controlled land base within the overall project boundary. Traditionally, dispersed land development results in an increase in inefficiencies related to electrical collection, road, and turbine installation. For example, a typical MW per section density is 2-3 MW, significantly less compared to Canadian wind projects in other provinces.
In addition, noise restrictions and Renewable Energy Approval (REA) requirements contribute to dispersed layouts, which increase the quantity of both roads per turbine (LF/WTG) and collection system per turbine (CF/WTG). Unique terrain directly impacts the regulations and requirements for drainage, which in turn impacts the schedule for design, regulatory review, and permit execution. Therefore, it is typical for the civil design and approval activities timeline to span 6-12 months.
It is essential to obtain early commitment from the wind turbine generator (WTG) manufacturer regarding the precise turbine delivery route, as this commitment outlines public road improvement responsibilities which will likely trigger additional permitting work. Early commitment can be difficult to obtain because the WTG manufacturer may not have their transportation contract secured in advance of commencing the project’s engineering phase. The routing of turbine deliveries is an interactive process as it is important to interface with unique land restrictions, especially where there are participating land parcels adjacent to non-participating parcels.
Finally, road use agreements at the municipal, county and provincial levels are extremely important in order to have the technical and commercial terms negotiated and executed so as not to impact engineering activities and construction progress.
Drain tiles are prevalent throughout Southwestern Ontario because of the characteristically flat terrain. Landowners may be sensitive to the impact wind farms have on their drain tiles. As a result, specific investigative, surveying, engineering, and execution measures must be enacted to mitigate the negative impact of construction.
Seasonal restrictions, such as half-load road seasons and the closing of the St. Lawrence Seaway, affect the ability to efficiently work around the sites and the delivery of the WTGs. Furthermore, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans also has restrictions pertaining to in-water works for drainage, waterways and stream crossings. These restrictions impact the site logistics, available periods to perform work and the cost-competitiveness of a project.
Typical collection systems are a combination of underground and overhead collection, and possibly joint-use arrangements with the local distribution utility companies (LDC) of the overhead collection along roadways. This creates a more complex system, induces higher collection quantities, and increases overall electrical infrastructure costs.
Also related to collection system infrastructure is the complex utilization of public road rights-of-way. Among drains/ditches, LDC, telephone, water, gas, etc., there remains little space for new underground collection. Therefore, developers may need to secure additional private easements in order to place new collection system work. Due to the intricacies of overhead collection systems and the need for unique designs, additional private land may need to be secured along public rights-of-way.
Developing, engineering, and constructing wind power projects in Ontario’s agricultural setting is a complex endeavor. Partnering with an experienced EPC contractor who understands the associated intricacies can provide owners/developers with numerous benefits. Significant cost savings and efficiencies may be achieved by identifying potential challenges and opportunities before construction begins.
The interplay among the existing environment, available information, permitting restrictions, technical parameters, and construction means and methods suggests owners/developers should have a well-planned strategy for realizing the goal of an efficient and cost-effective project that least impacts the environment.