New engi­neer­ing for tur­bine foun­da­tions


The own­ers of the pro­posed 12-tur­bine Ot­ter Creek Wind Farm north of Wal­lace­burg say they will not be us­ing foun­da­tions that re­quire pile driv­ing, and will in­stead be us­ing a spread­foot sys­tem that re­quires a few me­tres of foun­da­tion depth.

Bo­ralex said the de­ci­sion was made to ap­pease mem­bers of the com­mu­nity who have ex­pressed con­cern over pile driv­ing.

Adam Rosso, di­rec­tor of pro­ject de­vel­op­ment for the Ot­ter Creek Wind Farm pro­ject, said Bo­ralex de­cided not to use piles in any of the pro­ject’s in­stal­la­tions af­ter do­ing re­search and anal­y­sis on other op­tions. He said the push to look at an al­ter­na­tive to pile driv­ing was mostly in­ter­nal.

“We chal­lenged our civil engi­neer­ing team to come up with a de­sign that took some time,” he said. “It took tremen­dous amount of in­no­va­tion and work and it paid off. We’re very happy with the work we’ve been able to com­plete with our engi­neer­ing com­pa­nies.”

Al­though Bo­ralex of­fi­cials said they be­lieve that deep-pile foun­da­tions don’t im­pact lo­cal wa­ter wells, the switch to a spread­foot sys­tem was made be­cause they didn’t want to up­set com­mu­nity mem­bers.

“We know un­equiv­o­cally that the science and engi­neer­ing sup­port the pile foun­da­tion, but at the end of the day we be­lieve that work­ing to­gether is vi­tal for the suc­cess of any pro­ject and that in­cludes tak­ing so­cial con­cerns into con­sid­er­a­tion, and that’s why we’ve done it,” Rosso said.

The new foun­da­tion de­sign is com­mon and used in a va­ri­ety of civil engi­neer­ing ap­pli­ca­tions, Rosso added.

Op­po­nents of pile driv­ing point to the nearby North Kent wind farm, where they say the de­vel­op­ment and in­stal­la­tion of wind tur­bines – with foun­da­tions that reach to the bedrock – have led to the con­tam­i­na­tion of sev­eral wa­ter wells dur­ing and af­ter con­struc­tion.

To re­flect the foun­da­tion change, Bo­ralex has up­dated and re­sub­mit­ted its Re­new­able En­ergy Ap­pli­ca­tion sub­mis­sion to the On­tario govern­ment.

Rosso said he hopes grass­roots en­vi­ron­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tions such as Wa­ter Wells First and Wal­lace­burg and Area Wind Con­cerns will view the change as good news, as there will be no piles or any con­struc­tion near bedrock.

But Kevin Jakubec, spokesper­son for Wa­ter Wells First, said he still sees prob­lems ahead. He said a risk re­mains be­cause of the tur­bines’ vi­bra­tions, and points to work done by Dr. Mark-Paul Buck­ing­ham of Scot­land, a spe­cial­ist in vi­bra­tion re­duc­tion.

“In his ex­pe­ri­ence, ei­ther type of foun­da­tion can still cause a prob­lem dur­ing the op­er­a­tion phase,” Jakubec said.

Jakubec said the Ot­ter Creek pro­ject should be postponed, as there is a pend­ing health-hazard in­ves­ti­ga­tion that must first be com­pleted by the prov­ince.

“The govern­ment should put a pri­or­ity on our health and well­be­ing,” Jakubec said. “We need that done be­cause we need to un­der­stand what is go­ing to be a suc­cess­ful re­me­di­a­tion method, and we don’t have that. We don’t have that safety net.”

The is­sue was high­lighted dur­ing the re­cent provin­cial elec­tion cam­paign, with On­tario Pre­mier Doug Ford say­ing, if elected, he would quash the Ot­ter Creek Wind Farm pro­ject and not al­low it to move ahead.

Ford also pledged to un­der­take a health-hazard in­ves­ti­ga­tion into lo­cal wind farms and their is­sues with neigh­bour­ing wa­ter wells.

The wind tur­bines in the Ot­ter Creek wind pro­ject are ex­pected to be the tallest in Canada.

Rosso said changes to the foun­da­tion con­struc­tion won’t im­pact the size of the tur­bines.

Ot­ter Creek of­fi­cials said they an­tic­i­pate most of the Ot­ter Creek wind tur­bine con­struc­tion to be­gin in spring 2019.

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