There are a number of stages involved in establishing a wind energy installation. These include:
We analyze the wind speed and directions of a site to assess if it is a viable option for wind energy generation and also to assess which turbine model is most suited to the conditions. This data is used at many different stages of the project, from determining what type and size of wind turbine would be the best choice, to deciding whether the site is economically viable.
Natural Forces is not tied to a specific wind turbine manufacturer so we can choose the turbine best suited to extract the most energy from the wind at that site. We install a wind monitoring mast on site for over a year. This ensures that we record a reliable data set over at least one calendar year. This data is then compared to long-term wind data acquired from databases such as Environment Canada in order to predict average wind speeds for the site over the next 20 years.
Wind Monitoring Masts
The most common way of measuring wind speed on site is to use a wind monitoring mast. The mast usually measures between 460m and 80m high.
It is mounted with wind speed measuring equipment (anemometers) and wind direction measuring equipment (wind vanes) at various heights. It is not uncommon to have six or seven anemometers at different heights. These are all electronic, and they relay their data automatically every day to Natural Forces offices. Once received, the data is checked to ensure that the monitoring equipment is working properly.
The equipment is monitored on site periodically to ensure it is in functioning order and is taken down when the construction of a wind farm takes place. The monitoring equipment is powered by batteries charged by a solar panel so no electrical connection is needed.
Wind monitoring mast on site (NS).
Once we have collected over 6 months of wind data, we will do an initial analysis using computer modeling techniques. The modeling takes into account the topography and characteristics of the surrounding land, including any obstacles such as buildings, forests and turbulence effects produced by other turbines in the area and the turbines themselves. From this analysis, a long-term wind speed is predicted for the site, along with monthly averages during the year. The prediction is used to select the most appropriate type of wind turbine to install at the site. From the analysis, we also optimize the position of the turbines in order to provide the highest possible energy yield without compromising setback distances.
This modelling is performed again at 12 months of data to ensure we have an accurate prediction of the wind over a full year.
All the while monitoring the wind speed and direction, an initial desktop assessment of the site is conducted to ensure it is not within any ecological sensitive area, important migration pathways or in breeding areas for species at risk. This assessment is supplemented with talks with specialists at the Department of Natural Resources and scientists.
After the initial 6 month wind data modelling is completed and shows favourable wind conditions, a comprehensive set of studies is started including field studies to evaluate the suitability of each site in terms of its potential impact on ecology, landscape, visual amenity, noise, archaeology, First Nations traditional use and the environment.
Some think that wind turbines are elegant and that the landscape is enhanced by the silhouette of a wind farm, but not everyone agrees and we recognize that turbines are not suited to every geographic location.
We take on board visibility concerns that arise through close liaison with communities, landowners, and local authorities. To assess and minimize the visual impact of a farm, Natural Forces conducts comprehensive studies to establish an optimum site layout.
Computer modelling techniques provide accurate representations or predictions of what the wind farm may look like from various viewpoints. The results and possible design changes are incorporated into the project's environmental assessment, and shown visually.
Ecology and Biology
We liaise closely with relevant national and provincial bodies such as Environment Canada and provincial departments of Natural Resources. Avian species and their habitats are explored and examined through avian monitoring programs, which are designed and executed by impartial experts. We only proceed with projects where we are satisfied that they will have no net significant impact on wildlife.
People who have visited wind farms are often surprised how quiet they are. Appropriate turbine model selection and a thoughtful site layout design can ensure that sound levels at residences closest to the site will be minimal. Local residents are also protected through federal, provincial and municipal limits regarding noise generated by wind turbines.
If the outcome of all of these studies is deemed a minimal level of impact, then we may progress to a planning application. A typical planning application may take 6 months or longer to achieve.
Once all the appropriate permits and approvals are received, construction will begin and may take up to 9 months. Most of this time is spent constructing the foundations and the road infrastructure. The construction of the typical Natural Forces wind farm is completed within 6 to 9 months. Once the site and foundations are prepared, erection of each turbine can take as little as a couple of days under favourable conditions.
Prior to construction, a number of works would be undertaken including:
- excavation of trial pits for geotechnical and archeological investigations
- construction of site access points,
- the careful stripping and storage of soils for re-use
Construction is often scheduled to avoid wildlife breeding seasons as appropriate.
The impacts of construction traffic is mitigated through the adoption of specific routing and control measures. We seek to use existing tracks on farms as access roads wherever possible. Noise from the construction phase is very slight and no special measures other than good site management practice are required.
Health & Safety
Turbines are fully tried and tested and the site would comply with all relevant safety regulations. Natural Forces has an excellent record of Health & Safety during construction.
When the turbines are in operation normal requirements for access are limited. Routine maintenance is usually undertaken by the turbine manufacturer from a small van every three months. The turbines are also monitored remotely in real time which aids the manufacturer to deploy maintenance teams whenever it is needed beyond regular visits. The control systems in the turbines are fail-safe so if a fault does occur the turbines stop automatically and communicate with the operating company via a telephone line.
The wind farm is expected to have an operational life of approximately 20 years. After this time, the wind farm can either be decommissioned in about 3-6 months or be retrofitted to continue to harness energy from the wind with the right approvals and permits.
If the wind farm is decommissioned it would be returned to its former use.