Ingenuity is in the air

Jun 2, 2016 by Énergir in Energy
Blogue2 50252 Eoliennes
The four strong winds do more than just blow—they also give us a source of clean energy. Énergir knows that sustainable development means diversifying our energy sources, so it is implementing wind power projects that hold positive spin-offs for the environment and for local communities.

Powered by the simple movement of air, wind-generated electricity is 100% renewable and produces no greenhouse gases. It’s about doing the right thing at Énergir, which is actively expanding its clean-energy portfolio, comprising solar and biomethane as well wind. The challenge lies in finding locations that are sufficiently windy and far away from residential zones.

Encouraged by the success of its wind farm projects in Seigneurie de Beaupré, as well as in Vermont through its investments in Green Mountain Power, Énergir recently set its sights on Nord-du-Québec, where the winds are exceptionally strong. First destination: the Raglan Mine, a nickel operation on the edge of the Arctic Circle, in Québec’s northernmost reaches.

A wind turbine for the ages

Commissioned in summer 2015, the Raglan Mine wind farm is a technological success of unprecedented proportions. Far from any road transport, exposed to frost and minus–40 °C temperatures, battered by winds up to 120 km/h, this 600-ton giant could not have been built without the ingenuity of many talented people.

Up to now, all previous attempts to install wind-power generators in the region had failed. In partnership with the Tugliq project company, Énergir worked with Enercon, a German manufacturer that had previously developed a three-megawatt wind generator for Nunavik—an installation capable of withstanding the extreme conditions of the Arctic. Its direct-drive wind turbine operates without a transmission, thus eliminating gears and oils that are susceptible to freezing. It is equipped with a heater to melt the ice, and its blades have individual adjustments to withstand blizzards.

After design, comes construction. Faced with the impossibility of installing a wind turbine on frozen ground (the ice lens can melt in summer and cause the structure to shift), the engineers proposed an innovative solution consisting of a raised platform supported by 12 concrete posts anchored to the bedrock.

The mine is equipped with three storage systems to stabilize the variations in the wind turbine’s output. An inertial flywheel stores and releases energy rapidly over short periods. A long-lasting lithium battery stores electricity and supplies the network with it during transitions between diesel-powered and wind-powered generators.

A hydrogen-generating electrolyser, a hydrogen storage tank, and a fuel cell that converts the hydrogen into electricity are the facilities rounding out the infrastructure that serves the Raglan Mine’s energy needs.

This innovative energy transmission and storage system enabled the Raglan Mine to reduce its diesel consumption by 22 million litres, and its GHG emissions by 6.18 kilotons. It’s a feat that is sure to inspire others, to the benefit of the economy, of the environment and of local communities.