Renewable Energy 101: How to develop a wind project

Construction during the development of a wind power project.

Wind power is one of the fastest growing sources of electricity generation in the world. Suncor has been involved in the development of eight wind power facilities – three in Alberta, one in Saskatchewan and four in Ontario. Along with our partners, we’re currently involved in four operational wind power facilities in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario with a total generating capacity of more than 100 megawatts.

While wind projects are growing in popularity among companies who are investing in renewable energy, it may surprise you to learn how long it actually takes to build them - going through many stages of assessment, screening, community consultation and approvals before construction even begins.

Learn about the different steps we go through to develop a wind project:

Step 1: Find a site

When looking for a site to develop a wind project, many factors come into play, such as does the site have a good wind resource and is there access to the electrical grid? At Suncor, we take the time to talk and learn from the people in the community that may be impacted directly and indirectly, keeping an open dialogue with them throughout the development and operational phases.

Step 2: Wind assessments

Our project development team uses meteorological towers to measure wind speed and other climatic conditions. This data is then used to estimate how much energy a potential wind farm could produce.

Step 3: Wind farm design

Combining the wind data with the layout of the land and environmental features, our engineers model wind flow, turbine performance, sound levels and other parameters to optimize the location of wind turbines. They also design the access roads, turbine foundations and local electric network, as well as the connection to the electricity grid.

Step 4: Environmental studies

We use environmental assessments to identify and mitigate potential impacts to the communities where we operate including the residents, plants and wildlife, soil and water, land use or other activities such as aviation and telecommunications.

Step 5: Land acquisition

Our surface landmen work collaboratively with landowners to negotiate option agreements to use their land.

Step 6: Permitting and public consultation

As with any other major power project, we require various levels of permits (municipal, provincial and federal) before the project can proceed. We also spend time with local community residents and elected officials to present and discuss the project, receive feedback and build community relationships.

Step 7: Economic and financial analysis

It’s important to demonstrate the economic viability of the project and to have the necessary capital in place for the construction. A detailed estimate and cost optimized schedule is developed for the turbines, roads, electrical system, and substation.  

Step 8: Construction

Wind turbine component parts are manufactured and pre-assembled at the factory, then shipped to the wind project site where the final assembly takes place. Work crews also prepare turbine sites by building access roads, preparing turbine foundations and assembling turbine components.

Step 9: Operations 

Throughout the project’s life, regular activities are continually undertaken such as monitoring and analyzing performance, conducting environmental surveys, and performing preventive maintenance and repairs on the turbines and other components of the facility.

For more information on wind power development in Canada check out the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) website.

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