Northern wind power
There's plenty of alternative energy
activity going on in the Canadian province of Ontario, including the
101 MW Chatham wind power project, which was completed earlier this
The Canadian province of Ontario is a leader in wind energy—in
fact, Ontario is the leader in Canada, with close to 2,000 MW of
installed wind energy capacity. Last year was a record year for wind
energy development in Ontario with the installation of 522 MW in the
Across Ontario, encouraged by a government Feed-in-Tariff program, wind
energy projects have brought direct investment, new high-value jobs,
and economic growth to rural areas, as well as a new source of taxes
And there's more to come.
According to a report by ClearSky Advisors, Ontario is expected to
install more than 5,600 MW of new, clean wind energy capacity by 2018,
creating 80,000 person-years of employment, attracting $16.4 billion of
private investments (with more than half of that invested in the
province), and contributing more than $1.1 billion of revenue to
municipalities and landowners in the form of taxes and lease payments
over the 20-year lifespan of these projects.
Among the largest recently completed projects in Ontario is the $300
million, 101.2 MW Chatham wind power project developed by Kruger
Energy, which came online in January 2011.
The Ontario Power Authority selected Kruger Energy's Chatham wind
project through its third Request for Proposals for Renewable Energy
Supply (RES III). The energy produced by the Kruger Energy Chatham wind
project is being sold to the Ontario Power Authority under a 20-year
AMEC, the international engineering and project management company, and
its 50/50 joint venture partner, Black & McDonald, were awarded the
engineering, procurement and construction contract by Kruger
Energy for the Chatham wind power project, which has 44 Siemens 2.3 MW
MKII wind turbines. The scope of work included access roads,
foundations, electrical collector system, switching station, and
connection to the distribution lines.
This is actually the second contract the AMEC/Black & McDonald
joint venture has received from Kruger Energy—the companies
completed the nearby 101.2 MW Port Alma Wind Power project in 2008. The
AMEC/Black & McDonald joint venture has been very active in
Ontario, delivering close to 35 percent of Ontario's operational wind
As with many of the wind power projects in Ontario, the Chatham wind
project is located in an agricultural area in southwestern Ontario. The
site itself is fairly flat, sitting just north of Lake Erie, which
borders Ontario on the north and New York State on the south.
"The turbine layout for Chatham Wind is dictated by the wind regime,
which is influenced by the lake," explained Mohan Kalyana, who was
AMEC's project manager. "The turbines mostly run parallel to the
shoreline of Lake Erie, with some of them slightly more inland."
The project features two different lengths of blades on the Siemens
wind turbines, reflecting the varying wind intensity of the site. A
total of 40 turbines on the more robust wind sites had 101-meter length
blades, and four inland turbines had 93-meter blades. All turbines had
the same hub height of 80 meters.
"You could generally say that the southwestern part of Ontario, which
is south of Lake Huron and north of Lake Erie, is a sweet spot for
wind," says Kalyana. "The prevailing winds come out of the southwest,
right off Lake Erie."
The project developer and owner, Kruger Energy, is a subsidiary of a
major forest company, Kruger Inc., which has diversified into wind,
biomass, and hydro power in recent years. Kruger Energy was responsible
for the relationship with the landowners in the area and kept
landowners and residents up to speed with public meetings and a
regularly updated project website.
AMEC was involved with the project before construction, doing the
preliminary engineering work and supporting information for Kruger
Energy for the inter-connection assessment and the environmental
"We also had meetings with the landowners and Kruger Energy before the
start of construction on the project to explain what was going to be
involved and talk about safety and the dangers of heavy equipment
moving around the site," said Kalyana. "Plus, before we entered each
property to build the roads or do foundation work, we met with the
landowner to explain what we were doing."
He reports that they received good feedback from the owners on their
approach, which was important to them on a professional basis and also
important to Kruger Energy. "We put a heavy emphasis on that because we
know that Kruger Energy is going to be dealing with the landowners for
the next 20 years, so it's important that the landowners come out of
the construction process with a positive impression of how things were
handled with the project."
The knowledge base of local residents and landowners illustrates just
how common wind power is becoming in Ontario, especially in this part
of the province. "With the earlier projects we've done, there was a lot
of education about what a wind power project involves. But there have
been a number of projects in this area, and the farmers have seen the
other Kruger Energy project, so they know pretty much what to expect
and what the end result will be."
They also worked closely with the local municipality and other
authorities for the necessary construction permits and the electrical
inspection approvals. The actual interconnection contract is between
Kruger Energy and the Ontario Power Authority.
As noted, the Chatham wind project contract was a joint venture between
AMEC and Black & McDonald. "We jointly take on projects, with firm
schedules for completion and quality," explains Kalyana. "We are
totally responsible for the Balance of Plant scope of work except for
the turbine supply and erection in this project, which is a separate
contract between the turbine supplier and the owner.
"Generally, AMEC does project management, scheduling, and the detailed
engineering and Black & McDonald is the on-site construction
manager, responsible for areas such as safety and bulk material
ordering. But we work together very closely and
share the profits, but also share the responsibility."
It is, says Kalyana, a good meshing of the skillsets of the two
different companies. "It's proven to be a good concept—we work
well as a team." The two companies have been involved in about a dozen
projects, going back 20 years. They've been working on wind projects
for the last 10 years.
Kalyana says one of the keys to the construction of a successful wind
power project is safety. "Especially if you have a project that covers
a large area of land." The Chatham project covers about 25,000 acres.
"We have everyone on site registered at the project site office and
with the safety officer, so they know where they need to go or they are
Safety is part of the culture at both AMEC and Black & McDonald,
and never compromising on safety is one of AMEC's core values. There is
a mindset where no injury or incident is acceptable. "Safety is
everyone's number one priority and that extends right up to the senior
management team." Illustrating just how serious they are about safety,
the responsibility for safety rotates monthly among AMEC's senior
Client meetings and planning meetings were held weekly to share
information and keep the project on track. The discussions included
what they would be doing for the next week, and the information was
conveyed to landowners and local government officials. There were also
smaller scale daily meetings, when they discussed a particular
significant activity going on that day.
As with all major projects—perhaps especially wind
projects—activities can change from day to day, depending on
variables such as component deliveries and weather.
"These challenges, especially weather, can happen at any time," says
Kalyana. "In Canada, we have an extremely cold winter season, followed
by spring and summer seasons when there is a huge amount of
construction, followed by a rainy season.
"We know what to expect, and we work with that. But we also have
back-up plans for critical activities like turbine erection or building
roads or drain crossings that might be impacted by the weather. We have
a bit of a cushion for anything that we come across."
In the case of the Chatham wind project, the contract was signed in
October, and the engineering was done in November and December. "By the
time we mobilized things to the site, it was December, and the ground
was frozen. So the only things we could do were the drain crossings."
Because the land in this area of Ontario is very flat, preventing
natural drainage, there is an extensive drain tile system. In some
areas, there are drain tiles every 16 to 20 feet.
AMEC, the international
engineering and project management company, and its 50/50 joint venture
partner, Black & McDonald, were awarded the engineering,
procurement and construction contract by Kruger Energy for the Chatham
wind power project, which has 44 Siemens 2.3 MW MKII wind turbines.
"That created a challenge when we
were building roads and installing underground cable because every time
we cut a tile, it had to be repaired," explained Kalyana. "In some
cases, when the tiles were close to the surface we had to replace all
of the tiles."
For the landowners, the drainage tile system is the key to their
farming livelihood. "We prepared the tiles, took down GPS coordinates,
took photos, and showed them to the farmers to make sure they were
happy before we did anything."
There were also challenges getting material to the site. They faced
load restrictions that limited what could be hauled during the spring.
"This restriction put a lot of strain on our schedule in terms of
starting the actual construction at the end of April. The turbine parts
started arriving in June, so we had to finish all the foundation work
and access roads before that, so we only had about 2 ½ months to
do the civil construction."
They were resourceful when it came to road construction, taking a bit
of a different approach.
"We changed the road construction method from a conventional
granular/stone road to a cement stabilization method," said Kalyana.
"The process involves mixing the sub-base of the road with Portland
cement and then rolling it to get the required strength. It performed
much better than conventional road, and we were able to finish 30
kilometers of road in about 30 days—we saved about 2 ½
months on that alone."
Another advantage with this road system is that they were able to use
far less aggregate—they used native soil, except for a small
layer of stone on top. "This method has never been used in Ontario with
this kind of soil. It's been used for airport runways, but to our
knowledge, it has not been used before on wind projects."
Typically, foundation excavations have a 45-degree angle on the side
because they need to go down three meters. "We used step cutting and
reduced the depth of drop, so we were able to reduce the overall
This took a fair bit of time pressure off the project.
Once they got into summer, it was full speed ahead on the turbine
Kruger Energy oversaw the environmental assessment for the Chatham wind
project, but AMEC did the geotechnical work. Once they had all the
approvals, they created an overall Construction Environmental
"It dealt with all the issues," said Kalyana. "We had some special
breeds of snakes in some locations, so we had to make sure we did not
disturb their habitats, and we had biologists monitoring these areas."
There were Class Four shrubs that had to be protected, so roads were
re-routed and turbine foundations re-sited.
In addition to the work it has done in Canada, AMEC has also done a
fair bit of design work and environmental work on wind projects in the
U.S., which it's looking to do more of, as well as taking on
construction work with wind power projects.
As part of the company's Vision 2015 strategy, AMEC wants to extend
their geographic footprint, notably with wind, solar, and biomass