Avoiding an Ill Wind

Anticipating and meeting the site challenges that arise on wind projects
By: M Michael Callahan, PE & Andrew Zlotnick, LEP, LEED AP
Wind Systems Magazine October 2014

After a lackluster 2013 for wind power development, the wind market is once again growing. According to a Bloomberg New Energy Finance report, installations this year could reach 6.5 GW and grow to 8.5 GW in 2015. As wind development continues on its upturn, the focus is moving from “whether” to invest in wind power to “how” to make sure projects succeed.

This is no small issue. The development of wind projects — whether a single turbine or larger wind farms — are huge undertakings. They require substantial equipment and complex infrastructure to support and operate that equipment.

One of the most important infrastructure elements, yet one that is virtually invisible, is site preparation. Large-scale energy projects aren’t typically developed on pristine, undeveloped land. Rather, they are often located on brownfields or other sites that have previously been used for industrial or other functions, and which have been abandoned or deemed unsafe for traditional usage. But even though wind projects are often located on discarded land, that land is essential to the success of any project. It needs to undergo strict mitigation to assure that the energy-producing equipment can operate safely, and the structural integrity of the soil needs to be established so it can support the heavy equipment that’s necessary to provide wind power.

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