challenges wind project
Energy’s Top of the World wind power
project in Wyoming faced some severe weather
challenges—with minus 30 degree
temperatures—and an inflexible deadline for getting material
to the site, due
to an Interstate bridge construction project. But the project was
past year was a busy time for wind power projects for
major utility Duke Energy.
the company was so active with projects that it will soon be hitting a
1,000 MW of wind power under production. Pretty good, considering the
has only been involved with wind power in a big way for a few years. In
November, the company brought the 51 MW Kit Carson wind power project
Colorado online, giving it 986 MW of wind capacity at nine wind farms
states—Wyoming, Texas, Pennsylvania, and Colorado.
Duke Energy has committed some $1.5 billion to build its wind power
“The remarkable growth of our commercial wind energy unit
over the last three
years illustrates our commitment to building a significant
generation business,” says Keith Trent, president of Duke
contributor to moving toward that 1,000 MW benchmark was the completion
past fall of the 200 MW Top of the World wind project, in Wyoming, the
largest wind power project the company has ever built. It is also the
wind farm Duke has built in the state. The company now has four wind
farms in Wyoming.
supplies wind energy to regional utility Rocky Mountain Power under a
Power Purchase Agreement. Rocky Mountain now has 1,100 MW of wind
the company says it is on track to achieve their objective of having
of renewable power in place by 2013.
the World location has a number of clear advantages that made it a
for development, says project manager David Grogg.
advantages is that it was close to a point of interconnect that allows
easily connect into the grid,” says Grogg. “When it
comes down to it, you can
generate wind energy almost anywhere there is wind, but it makes it
economically challenging if you need to have a very long transmission
indeed good wind at Top of the World. “Top of the World is
viable in terms of
our economic model—the wind blows at a rate and consistency
that can support a
project for 20 to 25 years,” notes Grogg.
major advantage—and a valuable advantage at that, in a time
that the project has local support.
Wyoming is an attractive state for wind development, though that may
the future due to new tax regulations (see sidebar story on page 28).
World is indeed a massive project, being located on 17,000 acres of
land under lease in Converse County, in the eastern part of the state.
nearest major center is the city of Casper, just to the west. Most of
for the site is used for sheep and cattle ranching. There is also a
fair bit of
hunting that goes on.
developer of the project, Duke Energy had to deal with only four
negotiating land leases. The landowners viewed the project positively,
it as an additional source of revenue in addition to the ranching and
activities—and the fact that a wind farm would not interfere
project also means that landowners can now have better access to their
acreages. “We developed a road system as part of the
project,” Grogg noted. “So
not only do the landowners get the benefit of the revenue from the
they can now penetrate deeper into their land more easily. They can
their land on a road, instead of just a two-track. It’s
mutually beneficial for
both of us.”
large size of the Top of the World site, they developed nearly 30 miles
road. “That road had to accommodate a very large crane and
heavy truck traffic,
but we reduced the footprint of the road once the project was complete,
tries to work closely with landowners in a number of aspects, Grogg
they are building roads on large pieces of property, such as Top of the
if possible they will use quarries the landowners already have on site,
aggregate used in roadbuilding. “If we can get rock on site,
it saves us the
transportation costs, and it also contributes financially to the
yet another way.”
the 200 MW of wind components to the site was helped by the good
infrastructure in Wyoming. “The State has a strong rail
network that allowed us
to get the materials to a centralized point,” says Grogg.
“We had a laydown
yard, near the Casper Airport, to bring in the blades and the
access was especially helpful
since many of the components came from various parts of the U.S. and
The nacelles for the GE turbine units, for example, came from North
and the blades for the Siemens turbines came from a new plant in Iowa.
travelled about 40 minutes by truck on the Interstate highway, to
with the road network for the wind project. It’s at this part
of the process
that the logistics people at component suppliers such as GE and Siemens
such an instrumental role. Grogg notes that logistics people work
local, regional, and state government
agencies to ensure the proper routes and
permitting, for the extremely heavy and large wind turbine component
routes, in particular, are meticulously planned out. The most efficient
are carefully selected, so trucks don’t have to travel miles
out of their way
to avoid bridges that might have height or weight restrictions.
Construction, and Siemens employees proudly assemble beneath Tower 90
at the Top of the World Windpower project. One of the wind turbine
blades atop Tower 90 was inspected by President Barack Obama at the
Siemens manufacturing facility in Fort Madison, Iowa (see sidebar story
on page 27).
and other major aspects of the Top of the World project,
were covered by kind of a blanket legislative act in Wyoming, called
Industrial Siting Act. Applying to any project with a value of over
million, the act covers virtually all aspects of major projects, from
transportation to the environment, the impact on local roads, and
as where construction workers are going to live and how they are going
to the work site.
approach that Duke took to reducing the impact of the project was
interesting. Under the agreement, Duke took detailed before and after
photographs of the roads that were used to transport equipment. If
any damage to the road, Duke agreed to return it to its original
really felt that we owed it to the county or the state—if we
damaged the road,
we would fix it,” says Grogg.
some heavy loads on those roads; nacelles, for example, weighing in at
this process, Duke paid for a $100,000 asphalt patch at the entrance to
road to the wind farm, which received a good portion of heavy traffic.
the process, Grogg made himself very available to the Wyoming
Transportation (WYDOT) staff to answer any questions and settle any
was, essentially, the point person for the project.
phone me, email me, or ask me to come out, and they knew that I
Duke, and they could count on what I said. I think that helped to
Grogg said that Wyoming’s Industrial Siting Act was helpful
from both the
planning and construction perspectives, in that it makes it clear what
Energy and its contractor on the project, Wanzek Construction, were
unexpected aspect to the Top of the World project, as with all wind
construction projects, was the weather. As some of the residents say,
can get plenty of weather.
roads and transmission lines can be built without a permit, so Wanzek
Construction started in on both in early November 2009, in advance of
a project permit. As scheduled, they received the permit in January, so
were carrying out the prime part of construction in -30 degree
They had their share of weather days, when the project was shut down
high winds or extreme cold.
when our equipment can run, and when it shouldn’t be
run—and when it gets too
cold, we stop,” says Grogg, matter-of-factly.
weather did not end once winter drew to a close. They had a 25-year
in spring 2010. “There was an advantage to that,
though,” explained Grogg. “We
learned—real quickly—where the water was going to
go and what controls to put
managing the overall project, each morning, representatives from Duke
Construction and any other contractors involved would have a POD (Plan
Day) meeting that would define what was going to be happening
things we would talk about would be safety and any environmental
depending on what was going on that day, we might talk about what
be going on at the site by the landowners that day, where that was
going to be,
what they were driving, and whether we had to work in that area, and
people to what was going on and plan the appropriate safety
end the week with meetings, to ensure they were on schedule. Then there
be monthly meetings, which would involve a larger group of people
other Duke Energy representatives, from the head office in Charlotte,
representatives, and any other necessary parties.
Duke Energy was working to have the
project completed by fall 2010, there was
one major time element that was completely out of their
control—and it was a
major challenge, says Grogg.
had a firm date for construction work on a bridge on
the major Interstate highway, I-95, that led to the site. That work was
starting August 1—no ifs, ands, or buts about it, which meant
that all of the
material for Top of the World had to be across the bridge before August
materials weren’t across by August 1, well, they
weren’t going to get to the
site,” said Grogg.
involved the logistics people making sure everything was delivered to
ports—if the components were coming from
overseas—and to rail depots, so the
August 1 deadline could be met.
knew this was a number one priority, that there could be no delays,
ocean travel of components, to moving them by rail, and then by
all worked out, says Grogg. “We were able to make that
deadline by three days,
and WYDOT started work on the bridge by August 1.”