Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Ontario bidding to be the world leader in offshore wind energy

It really is just a matter of time before offshore wind energy takes off in North America in a very big way. The question is: exactly where will it happen first and who will be the recipient of the economic benefits resulting from its development?

As I noted in a post a week ago, after seven grueling years, Cape Wind is in the final stages of its federal review here in the U.S. According to Jim Gordon, the project's developer 130 turbines could be in full operation off the coast of Cape Cod as soon as 2011. With projects off the coasts of Long Island, New York and San Padre Island, Texas having been shelved Ontario, Canada may be Cape Wind's main competition to be the first offshore wind project on this side of the Atlantic. (GW)

Offshore wind power project will make Ontario a global leader
Construction challenges posed by Ontario’s largest offshore wind development are an opportunity to harness building expertise in this area, says the project’s president.

“A signature project like ours will help put Ontario into the global sphere of renewable energy,” says John Kourtoff, Trillium Power president and chief administrative officer. “There is an opportunity to not just set up a construction and supply chain for North America but it could help Europe as well.”

The provincial government has lifted a 14-month moratorium on offshore development after studying the potential environmental impacts on wildlife, aquatic species and bird migration routes. Offshore wind farms have been built and are on the books for Denmark, the United Kingdom and British Columbia.

Trillium intends to build a 140-turbine offshore wind farm between 20 to 25 kilometres from the Prince Edward County shoreline in Eastern Ontario. The wind farm would generate 710 megwatts of power, enough to power 250,000 homes in Ontario.

When news of the moratorium being lifted broke, some companies with construction and development expertise in offshore wind farms warned that a wait-and-see approach was needed. AIM Group and Northland Power said the construction and logistical costs for building offshore in the Great Lakes need to be investigated.

A three-year worldwide backlog in turbine supply and the Great Lakes not having a jack-up barge readily available were cited as two main challenges.

Kourtoff is confident that the Trillium project is big enough to meet these challenges.

“We never expected to buy our turbines and towers from Europe,” says Kourtoff. “We never counted on that. Current offshore projects have been relatively small and not large enough to induce a manufacturer to come here. There is a lot of capacity in the North American steel and manufacturing sectors.”

Kourtoff says turbines could be built at DMI Industries’ Fort Erie location, Ontario’s first wind-tower plant. Steel towers could also be built in Ontario thanks to steel availability in Hamilton. A tower’s composite fibre blades could be built in Sarnia. Ontario companies such as Bermingham Foundations, which specialize in project planning, supplying equipment, contracting and testing foundations worldwide, are also available locally to connect with.

Trillium intends to build a jack-up barge of its own to help with construction of its wind farm, notes Kourtoff. A jack-up barge can stand still on a lake bed, move up and down via hydraulics, and act as a diving or construction platform. “For a project our size, we will need a barge also for servicing and maintenance,” says Kourtoff. “We could also look at leasing out our barge to help other projects building offshore.”

Wind at Trillium’s project site has been measured at nine metres per second and in recent storms reached top speeds of 110 km/h. There are no shipping lanes in the area and the wind farm will create a “reef effect” for aquatic life. Also, bird flight patterns on the Great Lakes are generally along the shore and rarely reach out into the middle of the lake, Kourtoff says.


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