The Many Steps to Planning and Building a Wind Farm
There are many stages of development before a wind farm can
be approved and built. Once a site has been selected for its
good overall potential, work begins on several main tasks:
- MUNICIPAL CONSULTATIONS
It is extremely important to contact the municipality before undertaking any of the steps mentioned below. The consultations with municipalities will really help in making a project successful. Take the time to talk to your municipality and the people in the community that may be impacted directly and also indirectly. Engage them early in the planning process, answer any questions and/or concerns that they might have, and keep an open dialogue with them throughout the whole development.
- WIND ASSESSMENT
Another very important step is assessing the wind resource.
Scientists and engineers use meteorological masts to measure
wind speed and other climatic conditions for at least one
year. This data is then used to estimate how much energy the
wind farm will produce.
- WIND FARM DESIGN
Wind data is combined with topographical information to design
the wind farm. Engineers use this data to model wind flow,
turbine performance, sound levels and other parameters to
optimize the location of the wind turbines. They also design
the access roads, turbine foundations and local electric network,
as well as the connection to the electricity grid.
- ENVIRONMENTAL STUDY
Environmental assessments are conducted to identify any impacts
on landscape, plants and wildlife, soil and water, land use
or other activities such as aviation and telecommunications.
If negative impacts are identified, the design is adjusted
to avoid or mitigate them.
- LAND ACQUISITION
Early in the process, developers usually approach landowners
to negotiate “option” agreements to use their
land. As the project progresses, the developer will seek to
convert the options into firm land lease agreements.
- PERMITTING AND PUBLIC CONSULTATION
As with any other major power project, developers must seek
municipal, provincial and federal permits before the project
can go ahead. They also meet the local communities to present
the project, solicit their feedback and seek community support.
- ECONOMIC AND FINANCIAL ANALYSIS
Developers must demonstrate the economic viability of their
project to raise the funds to build the wind farm. On one
hand, they work to estimate the cost of turbines and their
installation, as well as roads, electrical system, operation
and maintenance, etc. On the other hand, they estimate the
income they will get from the energy production of the wind
farm over the lifetime of the project. Then they make sure
The wind turbine parts are manufactured and pre-assembled
into the main components at the factory, then shipped to the
wind farm site where the final assembly will take place.
- SITE PREPARATION
In the meantime, the crews have to prepare the site. They
build access roads and clear the areas where turbines will
be erected. They then prepare the foundations; do the excavating,
followed by installing the formworks and pouring concrete.
Once all components have been received, the assembly can take
place. A crane is used to erect the tower and install the
nacelle and rotor with its hub and blades. On the ground,
the electrical collection network is installed and connected
to the grid through the substation.
Finally, the wind farm is tested before becoming fully operational.
Currently in Canada, the construction phase presents the best
opportunities for local business and jobs. Other activities
related to logistics, travel, lodging and material supply
generate significant additional local revenue.
- OPERATION AND MAINTENANCE
A variety of skill sets are required to ensure the effective
operation of a Wind Farm. The activities that have to be performed
on a regular basis throughout the project’s life include
monitoring and analyzing performance, conducting environmental
surveys and performing preventive maintenance and repairs
on the turbines and other components of the facility. In addition
to the permanent employment created to perform these tasks,
a region with several wind farms may take the opportunity
to develop and deliver new training programs for the specialized
workers needed for these jobs.