Monday, March 20, 2006

The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind

The new face of Norfolk CountyAlong the northern shoreline of Lake Erie, east of the sleepy little fishing town of Port Burwell, contractors are currently constructing 66 wind turbines. Each of these turbines is capable of generating 1.5 MW (megawatts), so the total project's potential is 99 MW, enough to power 30,000 homes. As a comparison, Toronto's lone Exhibition Place generator is capable of producing .75 MW, enough for 250 homes.

Since this project is now in its advanced stages, we decided today to take a field trip out to

Turbine 52, just west of Houghton Centre, south of Lakeshore Roadthe site, approximately 50 km to the southwest of where we are. The weather was partly cloudy, with the temperature hovering around zero degrees celsius, a little cool for this time of year, but not too bad.

The turbines aren't hard to find, just drive in the general direction and sooner or later they will pop out above the tree line. Then just home in. If you miss them, you'll find yourself swimming in Lake Erie.

Now I must say, these things are humongous. Not only that,

are very big. Produced by GE (General Electric), they are of the SLE type. The hub (i.e. the tower) can reach heights of 61m to 85m. The total rotor width is 77 m. There are about 25 in Norfolk County, the rest is in Elgin County.

We were lucky: just as we got there, the giant crane used to assembled the turbines was raising the nacelle for Turbine 52, which, as we all know, is positioned just west of Houghton Centre and south of Lakeshore Road. The nacelle is the giant box that contains the generator and the gearbox to which the rotors are attached. Rasing the nacelle was a fairly quick operation, all in all it took about 20 minutes. Obviously, these people had done this before. No sooner was it positioned in place or we could hear the ratchet air wrenches being used to tighten the bolts fastening the nacelle to the tower. In order to prevent the nacelle from slamming into the tower on the way up, two cables were attached to a dozer winch, which slackened while the nacelle was being hoisted.

We stuck around for a while, hoping to see the rotors going up as well, but no such luck. So we drove around a bit, eating the lunch Anne had lovingly prepared in advance. Most of the turbines are somewhat far from the nearest road, usually 2 to 300 m, but there is one on Concession Road 2 ENR, which is only 50 m max into the field. This road is the first one west of Norfolk County Road 28 and runs parallel to it. We stopped at this particular turbine and with the Sigma 10-20 mm set at about 17 mm, I was able to get the whole turbine in the shot, while virtually positioned directly underneath it. Way cool.

Across the road, I framed a ready-to-go turbine between two weather beaten tTurbine 36 under constructionrees.
The Lakeshore tends to be very run down at this point, hopefully, these turbines will give it a well deserved economic boost.
The turbines aren't in operation yet: electrical lines still have to be run and I'm sure there's lots of testing to be done. Supposedly they'll deliver their first power to the grid sometime in April.

I sure hope it works and that it is a profitable venture. Allow me to be a bit skeptical: where we are, wind seems to be something that only occasionally kicks up a storm (pun intended). Most of the time calm days seem to prevail. But then, I've been wrong before...

1 comment:

Mark said...

good to see some pictures of the project near Port Burwell. I grew up there, but haven't been down since it really started taking shape.