Wind Power

New Brunswick — Dorchester Penitentiary, a 466-inmate, medium-security facility in New Brunswick, Canada, is home to the first large-scale wind turbine erected by the Correctional Service of Canada and the largest installation on Canadian government property.

The renewable energy pilot project cost $2.3 million — $1.5 million for the 600 kW wind turbine and $800,000 for site preparation, infrastructure, installation and project management services.

The wind turbine will generate approximately 20 percent of Dorchester Penitentiary’s electricity demands, saving an estimated $110,000 per year in energy costs. The installation is projected to reduce the facility’s carbon emissions by 940 metric tons annually — roughly the equivalent of removing 265,500 automobiles from the road.

The life span of the turbine is approximately 25 years, with maintenance costing an estimated $12,500 per year.

The Long Road

The planning process for Fuhrländer’s FL 600 unit — a three-blade, horizontal-axis, pitch-regulated turbine designed to operate at variable prevailing wind speeds of 24 mph to 44 mph — took several years and included a number of complex, time-consuming steps, says Christelle Chartrand, spokesperson for CSC.

The tower of the FL 600 is approximately 160 feet tall and 14 feet in diameter at the base. When a blade reaches its highest position, the tower is nearly 240 feet tall.

In 2003, CSC launched a preliminary study to see if the wind project qualified for subsidies under the Natural Resources Canada Federal House in Order Program — a program introduced under the Canadian government’s Action Plan 2000 on Climate Change, which committed $500 million over five years to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from all sectors of the Canadian economy.

In 2004, CSC project managers oversaw construction of an on-site, 150-foot aluminum wind-monitoring tower to test the potential for wind power at the facility. Results were favorable. The next phase involved consultation with an environmental expert to determine the wind turbine’s potential environmental impact — a step mandated by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.

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“The expert concluded that the wind turbine would pose no significant impact on the environment,” Chartrand says. “The analysis showed that the wind turbine is not a significant danger to local birds or bats, nor does it interfere with the flight paths of migratory birds. Nevertheless, CSC plans to monitor the wind turbine site for one year to track any bird casualties.”

The CSC also worked with an expert on shadow flicker analysis that examined the alternating changes in light intensity from shadows cast on the ground and nearby objects by the moving blade, which could possibly impact nearby residents.

As the project progressed, project designers located the wind turbine site approximately 1.5 miles away from the facility to help mitigate security risks.

The turbine’s rotors are constructed of fiberglass/epoxy resin composite engineered in a multi-cell spar and shell structure. A glass-reinforced plastic nacelle housing protects the turbine’s assembly — the gearbox, generator and yaw system attaching to a fabricated-steel chassis.

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Its rotor hub incorporates pitch bearings and individual pitch drives that control speed and act as the unit’s primary braking system. The tower also incorporates a disk brake for maintenance and emergency purposes, while rotors feature integrated lightning protection.

“The tower is inaccessible and cannot be climbed from the outside,” says Henry DuPont, president of Fuhrländer North America, the U.S. division of European turbine manufacturer Fuhrländer AG. “From the base of the turbine, you cannot see the prison. The ladder is inside the tower.”

Switching Gears

Completion of the project required the efforts of several government officials, wind industry experts and representatives of Fuhrländer. 

“The machines had to come by ship from Germany,” says Deb Pasternak, vice president of sales and operations of Lorax Energy Systems, the company’s North American distributor. “They were unloaded in the port of Halifax. Local truckers then brought the materials to Dorchester for installation.”

Officials from Public Works and Government Services Canada worked with the CSC at every phase of the project, including preparing the necessary material for submitting a request for proposal, vendor selection, construction of the access road for the transformer and connecting the electrical power lines.

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Fuhrländer collaborated with CSC officials to provide the necessary technical information and applications to utility companies. Technicians installed the turbine using a “behind the meter” configuration, tested it, then provided approximately eight hours of classroom and hands-on operations and maintenance training to CSC’s facility manager and staff.

The wind turbine became operational in April 2009, following a three-week trial period. Moving forward, CSC plans to conduct regular tests of the turbine’s effectiveness and efficiency.

An electronic control unit, one of three interfacing microprocessors that make up the central control system, synchronizes pitch drives to ensure uniform blade angle and optimal turbine operation. The microprocessor, located in the tower base, also incorporates a separate serial interface to facilitate communication, data transfer and monitoring of the turbine from a remote location.

Fuhrländer will monitor the turbine 24 hours a day from its technical center in Germany, and technical staff will conduct two routine maintenance visits per year.

State of Growth

The Canadian Wind Energy Association reports wind industry growth of 30 percent during the past five years, and despite the economic downturn, more than 35,000 wind industry jobs were created in the United States in 2008, according to the American Wind Energy Association. 

The CSC constructed two additional testing towers at separate sites at the same time as the Dorchester project, and another wind turbine will go up this summer at a correctional facility in Alberta, DuPont says.

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He says that buying large-scale wind turbine equipment is unlike buying any other type of equipment because of its high capital cost and low operational cost. 
“People are used to buying equipment with a low capital cost and high operational cost, and they are used to seeing payback in three or four years,” Dupont says. “This payback takes longer and the initial cost seems very high, but operational expenses are lower and it outperforms other choices over time. Thinking about wind power certainly requires a change in mindset.”

Fuhrländer North America

Correctional Service of Canada

FL 600 Turbine
Hub Height: 240 feet, with blade
Rated Output: 600 kW
Noise Levels: 98 dB (at Hub)/45 dB
(at 320 feet)

Tower: 81,400 lbs
Nacelle: 50,600 lbs
Rotor: 25,500 lbs

Blades: 3
Diameter: 160 feet
Speed: 13 rpm to 26 rpm

Type: Combined spur/planetary
Ratio: 1:75

Type: Double-fed asynchronous/
three-phase system
Speed: 1,000 rpm to 2,000 rpm
(60 Hz)
Regulation: Grid connected
Voltage: 690 Vac

Fuhrländer’s 600-kW wind tower stands 240 feet tall and weighs 81,400 lbs.