Quality Wind Project enters home stretch

Trent Ernst, Editor
On September 5, turbine 52 began turning, generating the first power from the Quality Wind Project. Three weeks later, 17 of the turbines were synchronized to the BC Hydro Transmission grid and ready to go.
Steve Owens, Senior Project Manager for the project says that every day, more turbines are coming on-line. “As of September 25, 70 of the turbines are received and assembled, of which 60 are complete and have or are undergoing quality control checks, of which  50 are mechanically complete and ready for commissioning of which  17 – are synchronized to the BC Hydro transmission grid and are ready to produce power.”
Owens says that a small amount of conductor still needs to be installed in the north area of the project where the cranes were moving, the last few turbines need to be finished internally and giving quality checks. “Then they’ll be turned over to Vestas for commissioning,” says Owens. “ During commissioning, the turbines will be energized, various pumps and motors will be tested and the wind turbine taken through its paces. Each unit will run for a 24-hour period to prove its running correctly.”
If the turbine is given the thumbs up, it probably won’t be brought on stream right away. “BC Hydro has limited the number of turbines allowed to operate at any given time to 15, until the wind facility’s control system can prove its ability to adapt to the ever-changing wind farm’s conditions and the grid. Once satisfied, BC Hydro will increase the number of turbines allowed to operate until all 79 are running.”
Owens says, although there are 17 turbines complete and able to generate power, the entire project won’t come online until later in the year. “Although power is already flowing during the commissioning phase, the commercial operation date is scheduled before the end of 2012. Prior to achieving this milestone, the wind facility must pass a 72-hour test to prove its capabilities.”
 Unlike last year, where torrential rain delayed the civil work on the project (road building, site preparation and pouring the concrete foundations), this summer was clear and warm. That lead to its own issues, with high wind and the occasional electrical storm hampering off-loading of equipment and erecting the turbines.
One of the more interesting stories out of the construction, says Owens, was getting the crane from one side of the project to the other. Normally cranes the size of the ones used to erect the wind towers (680 tonnes) are not allowed on provincial highways, but to take the cranes apart and re-assemble would have added months to the construction time. So Capital Power, along with Mortenson and Eagle West arranged with the Ministry of Transportation to set up special road crossings. 20 cm of sand is placed on top the road, then a 30 cm wooden mat is laid on top of that. 
The crane creeps across the road at a speed of 3.5 kph. Once it is on the other side, the mat and sand are removed, and the road is re-opened. 
According to the Ministry of Highways, the cranes might be the heaviest load to ever travel over a provincial highway. While all precautions were taken to prevent damage to the road, Capital has posted a bond to pay for any repairs needed. 
Mortenson is planning on wrapping up construction by the end of October, and the project should be fully functional shortly thereafter. Once the construction phase is wrapped up, Owens says there will probably be a dozen or so Vestas employees to maintain the turbines, stationed out of the new O&M building, as well as a handful of Capital Power employees in town. 
And what about the blade the community signed at the event earlier this summer? Owens says that blade has found its permanent home on wind turbine generator 63, along the M2 road on the south part of the project. “Eventually, direction signs will be erected, allowing people to navigate to the various turbines.”