Return to Lion’s Head

I just returned from the annual conference of the Canadian Wind Energy Association in Winnipeg. I had a few errands to run.

“Hi Tom. Fill please. How are you?” I asked.

“Oh, I’m good. So, what’s up with the turbines?”

“Acchhh. I am waiting for Electrical Safety Authority for permission to operate.”

“Ah. Bureacracy,” said Tom.

“Yup. I am hoping for tomorrow. But I’ve been saying that for 10 days.”

“Well good luck on that,” said Tom.

Then on to the post office to pick up mail.

“Hi Jenny. Picking up the junk mail too, are you?”

“Yes,” she laughed. “When are the wind mills going to turn?”

“Acchhh. They need to be approved by the Electrical Safety Authority. We should be real close.”

“Oh. Well, good luck to you,” she said.

Then into the bank.

“Hi Donna. Just a small deposit today,” I said.

“Hi Glen. So when are they going to be spinning?” asked Donna.

Everybody in the bank stopped doing what they were doing, and looked at me, and listened.

“Acchhh. I am waiting for permission to operate from the Electrical Safety Authority. Vestas and they are in discussions about the type of cable inside the turbine, and so there are letters and drawings going back and forth. It should be soon. It’s sort of stressful knowing they are done, but not being allowed to operate.”

“Too bad. Good luck Glen,” said Donna.

It’s not just me. The whole village is waiting. And watching.

I almost didn’t go to the CanWEA conference. The project has priority until it is running. But it turns out that the people who were working on the problem were at the conference, so I was able to keep in constant touch. At the conference, I received the Individual Leadership award for Exceptional Achievement. I am glad I went! It was a surprise – most of my accomplishments for CanWEA were done a few years ago, and others now contribute more than I. It was very moving to have 1250 delegates applauding my efforts. My hand almost hurt from the number of handshakes.

It’s not just the village. The whole Canadian wind industry is behind me.

ESA is responsible for ensuring safe operation of electrical equipment connected to the electrical grid. That is good. But I find the system rather confusing. Wind turbines are new to Ontario, and there is a lack of local standards. That doesn’t mean there aren’t standards. There is a whole raft of European standards that manufacturers adhere to, about electrical and structural safety. The CSA standards for wind turbines have not been updated since the late 70’s, and therefore are completely irrelevant, as wind turbine designs have changed entirely. So the ESA is put in the unenviable position of having to interpret standards that are not really for wind turbines. And when the ESA and the manufacturer interpret those standards differently, you run into trouble. Vestas and ESA are working through the issue, but for me it seems painfully slow. 6 hour time zones to Denmark, and 3 more to Portland Oregon, and 3 languages – English, Danish, and ESA – doesn’t help.

There are 60 V82’s in Manitoba operating safely with the same cables that ESA has concerns about in my turbine. And hundreds more around the world. The cables in question are relatively low voltage – 600 V. It is deeply frustrating.

So to get rid of some stress, I took a long walk out to White Bluff, along the Bruce Trail. There is a beautiful view from there, and I can walk directly from my house. As I was walking, I heard some grunting, and some leaves rustling. This is bear country, so when you walk in the bush, you tend to have heightened senses. It didn’t sound like a bear – the grunting wasn’t loud enough. But it was a lot more than a rabbit or squirrel. I stopped and looked. It was a pair of porcupines practicing procreation.

Yes. Stop and think about that. This is a job they must approach with the utmost care. Thousands of years of evolution must have taught them precisely how to do it.

The porcupines were a nice diversion. But as I walked home, the ESA/Vestas problem quickly resumed domination of my thoughts. Perhaps they are like the porcupines – each a bit prickly, and neither sure of how to approach one another. Unlike the porcupines, they don’t have thousands of years of evolution to fall back on. They have only been doing this for a short while.

But they’ll figure it out. Hopefully soon.

Leave a Reply