After talking to Cherokee County Auditor Kris Glienke recently to speculate that a significant issue of some sort existed with turbines in the recently commissioned 200 megawatt (MW) Glaciers Edge Wind Project in western Cherokee County, Glienke shockingly reported, “I’m hearing that all the blades might need to be repaired or replaced.”
Another (unverified) claim is that they hurried to finish setting up wind turbines by the end of 2019, even while knowing that some blades might possibly be defective, to get the benefit of the Production Tax Credit, Glienke added.
|When Glienke was asked if an EDF representative planned to attend a Supervisor’s meeting to explain where the problems are, she replied, “Nothing has been said about that yet.” Because it’s in the early stages of addressing this complex, unexpected turbine blade matter, gathering any informative explanations are often difficult.|
While driving south towards Marcus recently, I noticed Oak Ridge, TN. based Barnhart Renewables had a giant Manitowoc crane and a small wind turbine maintenance crew working at a nearby turbine site just south of C-16, a mile east of the Plymouth/Cherokee County line.
When driving east of Marcus late that afternoon, another giant crane was assembled at a turbine site north of the Little Sioux Corn Processors facility. Yet another yellow crane was assembled at a site 1 mile east of the ethanol plant ready to cautiously lower the 165,000 pound hub and blade assemblies to the ground..
These puzzling observations that day are what prompted the phone call to auditor Glienke that following morning. One could easily surmise that a major and unexpected problem had come to light in the wind farm.
With the unanticipated return of three giant, top-off cranes used to assemble turbine sites, these unusual circumstances can only be creating much consternation and curiosity among rural Cherokee County landowners and residents.
When I sought additional information concerning these issues with wind turbine sites, Cherokee County Engineer & Zoning Administrator Sarah Tracy responded to a list of several questions I’d emailed her.
When the 5,000-acre wind farm project was initially built in 2019, White Construction Company and a crew of 200 plus construction workers assembled the 82, 2.5 MW General Electric turbine sites and all the necessary infrastructure. It now appears that White Construction has apparently moved in to tackle this very difficult and complex project.
White Construction also apparently brought in Barnhart Renewables with their heavy lift capabilities to assist with a third top-off crane that’s equipped with what’s called a “wind tip” at the very top. The wind tip is designed for use on projects in the wind energy industry..
I asked Tracy if EDF had told her how many cites in all needed to be re-worked. Tracy replied, “Not exactly. We were only provided with a list of driveways and intersections that needed to be widened again so crews could access certain turbine site locations.”
Regarding the number of turbine sites impacted, Tracy reported. “EDF does not share that type of information with us. Our communications with EDF are focused on how their ongoing operations relate to our hard surface, gravel road network and other transportation infrastructure”
When I asked her if the same Road Use Agreement between the County and EDF is being used, Tracy replied, “Yes, we are still operating under the original road use agreement.”
Regarding when the three giant top-off cranes started to arrive, she replied, “It was late in February and early March when large semi’s began moving the over-sized crane components back into the turbine sites once entrance driveways had been widened.”
Otherwise, Tracy reported, “The basic information that EDF has explained to me is just how EDF’s continued operations will impact our roads and bridges; haul routes, trip permits, driveway and intersection widening. Generally, the only information they provide is pertinent to our transportation and road infrastructure.”
I asked her to describe the instance where a crane had caused damage to the asphalt surface on C-16. Tracy explained, “Heavy rubber-tired, rough terrain cranes have been driving down C-16 without obtaining trip permits or using protective wooden mats. Generally, this road surface damage they have caused has occurred between B Avenue and going east to I Avenue with the greatest damage on the south side of the road.
“We’ve sent EDF a quote for the repair of the roadway damage. As of March 24, we have not settled on how the road will be repaired from the damage caused by the cranes.
“For public safety, the County road crews have done some maintenance to C-16 to try to keep the road surface together. These are short-term band aids and a larger maintenance project will be needed in the future to repair the roadway from the rough terrain crane damage.”
Tracy concluded by offering her views of what it is like for her as the County Engineer to deal with an unanticipated issue like this that is almost as complex as anything imaginable.
Tracy said, “Yes, it is a bit of a touchy subject from my end. As the County Engineer and the one responsible for Cherokee County’s roads and bridges, the very large and heavy equipment associated with the wind farm construction and operations is a concern. This shows a little tunnel vision because there are other benefits associated with the wind farm: however, infrastructure damage still needs to be addressed and considered as part of the overall picture.”
Information that will be included in an upcoming Part II story will come from EDF and possibly even General Electric, the manufacturer of the wind turbines, hubs and blades. EDF Community Relations Coordinator Jinnie Hall provided an update via email March 27th after being emailed a lengthy list of questions. Hall also noted how they are dealing with the Covid-19 issue in her email.
Hall wrote, We are working to get responses to the questions on the Glaciers Edge I and II wind projects in a timely manner. We are actively partnering with the construction crew and turbine manufacture to ensure we can provide the most accurate responses. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has taken quite a bit of resources over these last two weeks to ensure the community along with our staff (operational and construction crews) remain healthy and safe. I will send the info as soon as I can.”