October 18, 2007

Huge project takes huge parts

Report from the construction of the Smoky Hills Wind Farm in Kansas, on hills on both sides of state highway 14 south of Lincoln:

The crane standing atop a hill across the Ellsworth County line north of Interstate 70 soared 315 feet into the air.

Nearby stood two white tubes, one stacked on the other. These made up the bottom two sections of a four-section tower. When this and more than 50 other towers like it are operational, the Smoky Hills Wind Farm will go on-line ...

The wind farm is being developed by TradeWind Energy of Lenexa under the ownership of Enel North America, Inc., a subsidiary of Enel, SpA, the third largest utility in the world.

The components [that electricians, engineers, construction employees and others] are putting together to make the wind turbines are huge. For instance, each turbine will have three blades, each one 132 feet in length.

The towers, manufactured in Denmark, Canada and China, are shipped to the Gulf of Mexico, where they are loaded on rail cars and transported to Kanopolis, 10 miles to the south of the construction site.

Other information shared by [farmer, landowner (hosting 15 of the machines), and tour guide Richard Plinsky]:

• Ten special "low-boy trucks" were needed -- just to deliver the crane, which will hoist the tower components, including the nacelle or generation head, which holds the hub for the three blades.

• The turbines [are capable of producing] 1.8 megawatts of energy [sic -- megawatts are a measure of power], making them the largest producers in Kansas. The wind turbines at Spearville and Elk River, east of Wichita, are 1.5 megawatts.

• The cost of a finished turbine is between $3.5 and $4 million [$1.9-2.2 million per megawatt].

• Each base takes 500 cubic yards of concrete, which is poured 8 to 10 feet into the ground.

• Each tower has 77,000 pounds of reinforcement bar in the concrete. The towers stand 260 feet tall.

"It was such a large project that there was no way anybody local could handle it," Plinsky said.

• When construction started, about 140,000 gallons of water were needed daily to pour the concrete and build the roads. Plinsky said large amounts of water are still required to control the dust on the roads.

wind power, wind energy, wind farms, wind turbines, environment, environmentalism