The owner of a dilapidated and dangerous wind farm in northwest Oklahoma plans to remove broken blades from seven towers and to fell two others that are topped with burnt-out nacelles that used to house generators.
Those steps will be taken by a contractor hired by Olympia Renewable Platform LLC later this year as the owner works to address public safety threats identified earlier this year posed by the KODE Novus I and II wind facility, southeast of Guymon in Oklahoma’s Panhandle.
The Texas company submitted the plans and proof it could pay for the needed work after regulators launched an enforcement action for allowing the development to lapse into disrepair.
The company filed a plan to secure the site and a plan to remove associated safety concerns earlier this month.
Company officials notified regulators they expected needed repairs could be started sometime next month and take between 20 and 30 days to complete, depending upon relatively calm conditions that would be needed for the work.
But as for the facility’s long-term future, that remains unclear.
Removing safety risks aim of plan
The remediation plan submitted by Olympia addresses nine towers.
Seven of those are missing portions of, or entire blades, while two are topped by burnt-up nacelles where blades are no longer attached.
The company hired by Olympia to do the work, EcoAlliance Contractors, will use “rope access” technicians to cut and remove the damaged blades from nacelle hubs and will dispose of those components using established EPA standards, according to the submitted plans.
Olympia then will secure hub assemblies and lock them down before the blade removal work is done.
EcoAlliance told Olympia available contractors for the blade removal work would not be available until Aug. 19, at the earliest, according to the submitted plans. As for the two towers that will be taken down, EcoAlliance said trying to use cranes to remove the nacelles safely wouldn’t be possible.
“Felling is deemed ONLY option,” Olympia’s filed plan states.
EcoAlliance will remove debris from the felled towers’ sites, as well as associated buildings, electrical cables/components and foundations to a depth of 48 inches below grade.
The company will backfill the soil to restore it to grade and reseed disturbed areas to return them to their pre-construction condition, according to the submitted plans.
EcoAlliance estimates the work it will do for Olympia will cost $348,750.
Longterm future of KODE Novus facility not clear
The 120-megawatt capacity KODE Novus I and II project, located along the Oklahoma-Texas state line between Guymon and Hardesty, went operational in 2012 and contains 60 towers within Oklahoma.
Dozens of turbine towers that are part of the larger project were locked down in June. They aren’t addressed by Olympia’s plan.
There also were rumors earlier this year that another wind operator was looking at acquiring the facility from Olympia; the company’s remediation plan doesn’t confirm nor deny those plans.
KODE Novus I and II was developed and owned originally by DeWind (a subsidiary of South Korea’s Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering), a California-based company that later fell into bankruptcy and closed.
Because DeWind built the blades and generators used in the project itself, any critical needed replacement parts that can’t be salvaged must be manufactured from scratch.
While waiting for contractors to mobilize, Olympia has put temporary fences around some damaged towers and posted signs that warn of “potential shedding,” where debris and parts could separate from the structure and fall to the ground.
Officials said they coordinated those efforts with local land owners to accommodate their cattle grazing and harvesting needs, and efforts to repair or take out damaged towers will be coordinated similarly.
“We have commenced and completed substantial portions of our ‘Facility Security Plan,” Olympia’s filing with the commission reads. “But unprecedented amounts of rain limited our access to some of the wind turbines, additionally complicated by overlapping harvest season, so we improvised some solutions.”
Regulators were notified about the facilities’ condition earlier this year and were alarmed to hear cracking sounds when they inspected the operation as large, broken turbine blades on towers blew first one direction and then another, including over open access roads that area motorists use daily.
Brandy Wreath, director of the Oklahoma Corporation Commission’s Public Utility Division, testified before elected commissioners about what he had seen during a hearing seeking the emergency steps the order required Olympia to fulfill.
“I am not someone whose nerves get on edge very easily, but I didn’t want either myself or my people close to it. What I saw gave me fear,” said Wreath. “I left with many more concerns and questions than I had arrived with.”
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding