Wind energy is one of the renewable sources of energy and to harness the potential of wind, wind farms are constructed.
Here in this article, you’ll know about some of the best practices to follow while constructing a wind farm.
Given the situation of our present-day environment, you cannot undermine the importance of managing energy and its resources.
We need to fulfill our energy demands and tackle climate change impacts at the same time. So moving from conventional(non-renewable) sources to renewable ones which are wind, solar, and hydro energy is the only way left out.
Keeping these all things in mind, it’s important to ensure that the construction of a wind farm is accomplished with the best environmental practices followed.
This article will be helpful for those who are involved in the energy industry through their products or services. Or even if you are an individual who sees himself as an energy enthusiast, still you will get a lot of meaningful insights into the construction of wind farms or any mega construction project aiming at sustainable development.
So, the key goals to accomplish while constructing a wind farm are as follows-
- -Pollution Prevention
- -To conserve natural resources
- -To protect ecology and complete archaeological landscape
Scotland as a country has emerged as a pioneer in the area of harnessing energy from wind. The Scottish Government, with its advising agency Nature Scot, has constructed wind farms across their country with a whopping capacity of around 7500 Megawatts!
So, we’ll summarize here the experience and the lessons which the Scottish developers learned during their journey of wind farm development.
The key goals were the same described above, which they considered while developing their wind project i.e. to prevent pollution and maintain an ecological balance.
We can’t conclude that these practices are the “best” ones, as our aim for continuous improvement will yield better and improved practices. But these practices definitely lay a foundation for whatever can be called best and practical.
So having that said, let’s have a look at 15 major points to consider while constructing a wind farm for wind energy production.
1. Pre-Construction Considerations
Before starting the construction of the wind farm project, it’s important for all the parties involved in the project to comply with the regulatory bodies of respective areas i.e. water, air, or land/soil.
There should be proper liaising between all the stakeholders of the project, i.e. developers, contractors, and Environmental and Archeological agencies.
So before the commencement of the project,
-in-depth survey on habitat, archaeology, and wildlife-especially considering non-native species;
-risk assessments related to land and flood;
-peat surveys and devising peat management plans to reduce peat arisings; -creating constraint maps highlighting the sensitive areas;
-creating an outline of Decommissioning and post-operation plans; and -interaction with the nearby residing public to win their confidence
are some of the key points to consider.
This will ensure the smooth operation of the development process, without causing any time delay during the project construction.
The cooperation between environmental clerks and contractors is important not only to minimize environmental damage but also to manage costs and reduce the risk of life and property.
2. Seasonal Considerations
The next thing to consider before and while construction is weather conditions.
The “winter season” possesses substantial hindrance in all the stages of the project. Snow cover on the roads and pavements makes turbine lifts and people movement quite difficult. Heavy Fog covering the air reduces visibility and increases the risk of road accidents.
In-winter conditions at one side, the dust particles dispersed in air in extreme “dry weather” also make transportation difficult.
This, in addition to other challenges like storm events, rainfall & floods further increases the risk of property and human life.
Moving further, you’ll find seasons or times when certain species of animals are more active at that time.
The bird breeding season probably lies between (May-Aug) making certain species of bird at risk. To solve this problem, a Bird Protection Plan should be created by a qualified ornithologist.
Other species like red-squirrel, badger, deer, and certain bats also become vulnerable at certain times. So considerations to protect these should also be kept in mind.
So summarizing all the above key points, it’s important for all the stakeholders involved to create a construction timetable that will ensure work efficiency and mitigate the risk of loss of endangered species and human life.
3. Following Construction Environment Management Plans (CEMP) and Construction Method Statements(CMS)
CEMP and CMS are guidelines that are used in the construction industry during the development of any project. These guidelines take care of all the important factors into consideration that are related to the protection of the environment, ecology, archeology, and the safety of human life.
The main objective of the CEMP is to ensure a smooth and consistent construction process.
It focuses on creating site-specific maps and plans, as visual representations are more descriptive than text-based documents, and lays down the goals that are realistic or achievable.
Implementation of Waste Management Plans, Accident Management plans, and drainage activities are also looked after by the CEMP/CMS body to reduce the risk of environmental pollution.
It also ensures that the planning and goals created have a scope of flexibility so that they can be changed in the future if the situation demands.
However, the main focus of CEMP authority is just to ensure the proper execution and implementation of defined plans. It doesn’t primarily aim to monitor environmental impacts due to these activities.
The concern of monitoring and protecting the environment from its damage is handed to another statutory body called Environmental Clerks of Works(ECoWs) which we are going to know in the next section.
4. Involving various Environmental Clerks of Works(ECoW)
The Environmental Clerks of Works(ECoW) is a regulatory body to ensure proper implementation of environmental legislation by all stakeholders involved, primarily aiming to mitigate the environmental damage.
ECoW’s have the authority to advise and direct the contractors and developers to temporarily withhold the project in case of non-compliance with necessary environmental regulations.
So, involving ECoW in the construction project ensures proper address of issues like protecting species, habitats, archaeology, and preventing pollution.
5. Protecting Archaeological Sites
The next important thing to consider is taking steps to protect archaeological or historic environmental sites while project construction.
So this should be taken into priority from the start of the project i.e. at the design phase of wind siting.
Historic environmental surveys by respective authorities should be done to identify and mark important archaeological sites to create a design plan accordingly. It’s best to mark those sites with visible fences and also provide constraint maps to the site staff.
If an archaeological site is encountered while on-going construction, then it should be immediately brought to the notice of the concerned authority.
6. Creating an Effective Traffic Management Plan
Creating a good Traffic Management Plan(TMP) will ensure road safety by minimizing congestion, reduce environmental risks by causing less pollution, and will also promote good relations with the public.
So lower speed-limits should be set for wind-farm construction traffic to provide public convenience.
Vehicles should be washed before they are made to enter the public highways for the cleanliness of the roads.
The authorities should be ready with street-sweeper vehicles to clean public roads if in-case the vehicles spoil the road.
Apart from this, in case of abnormal load transportation, the communities residing near the site should be informed in-prior for their safety. In such cases, the school opening and closing times, peak hours, and holidays should also be avoided.
7. Taking care of Recreation and Public Access
Recreation activities like sports, cycling, jog or walk are a part of public life. The areas chosen for wind farm construction may lie near the public area also. In such a case, farm developers and contractors should also take care of public access to these sites.
This, in the long run, will help in creating a healthy relationship between construction stakeholders and the public.
Also, keeping in mind the public safety around the area, advisory should be issued and informed to the public, and warning signs should be installed wherever locations are necessary.
So, all these factors should also be taken into consideration at the design stage and during the construction of the wind farm.
8. Managing Forestry
Forests help in saving our planet by reducing greenhouse gases and thus play a major role in our goal of sustainable development.
So making a goal plan to save them is a crucial step in wind farm construction.
Again, it requires proper planning and cooperation between all the stakeholders, from the one‘s related to the construction of wind farms and various environmental agencies.
It’s quite possible that some areas need to be cleared of trees for the farm development. But proper planning of their replantation should be carried out alongside.
9. Ensuring Robust Drainage Systems
Ensuring proper drainage systems are necessary to prevent environmental pollution. This will also help in the smooth operation of the project with any delays.
So, the parties involved in the construction process need to take care that their drain water discharge doesn’t pollute the natural watercourses and thus the groundwater.
10. Construction of Access Tracks
Access Tracks are roads constructed to join the public highways and the construction site areas.
Efficient construction of access tracks will ensure
- -proper infrastructure construction at the farm site,
- -transport of wind-turbine machinery parts,
- -on-time completion of the project without any delay, and
- -will also help in performing maintenance activities post-construction.
So a proper plan should be carried out in this work, which includes enough ground analysis and topographical surveys while cooperating with Environmental Clerks of Works(ECoW) to minimize the habitat damage.
11. Construction of Site Compounds
Like any other civil construction project, site compounds are created near the construction sites.
The key consideration in the site compound construction is ensuring that it doesn’t cause any environmental, archaeological, and habitat damage, and all the necessary survival resources could easily be made available to the site compound.
This again will also improve the work efficiency of the construction task and will prevent any kind of construction delay.
12. Establishing Proper Electrical Systems
The best practice while establishing cable tracks for wind turbines is to lay them along the constructed access tracks.
This will help in easy access to the cable and electrical systems, and will also be helpful for carrying out maintenance post-construction activities.
13. To ensure bio-security by managing invasive non-native species
If you were not aware of this before, then the non-native species are those animals or plants that have got introduced to the areas where they don’t actually belong.
The non-native species sometimes may belong to the invasive species that may cause a disturbance in the environment and ecology of an area. They may also cause structural damage and public health issues.
So, it’s important to identify such species if they are introduced into the site area and then take necessary actions to eliminate them.
14. Construction of Turbine Foundation and Crane Pad
Proper site investigation, which involves in-situ testing and lab testing of the soil underneath should be carried out before carrying out the construction of the foundation and crane pad.
This will ensure the safety and longevity of the wind-farm project. And as will all the construction practices described till here, the feasibility of the work and environmental impacts can’t be neglected.
The decommissioning potential of the base should also be taken into account while planning and construction.
15. To re-establish the habitat
The final part is to ensure proper habitat reinstatement or habitat creation.
It’s inevitable that a large construction project like wind farm construction will not cause ecological and environmental damage.
So, it’s the duty of all the stakeholders involved in the project, from contractors to those involved in the operation of the farm, to restore the damaged vegetation and the whole ecological system back to its native state.
This mainly involves re-vegetation, ensuring that the soils excavated don’t mix with each other, effectively using peat soils and fencing areas to protect from grazing, and human intervention.
The plan regarding the process should be outlined by respective management authorities i.e. of Habitat Management Plan(HMP), Peat Management Plan(PMP), Construction and Environmental Management Plans(CEMP) in the pre-construction phase itself.
So this was an excerpt of the best practices to follow while constructing the wind farm taken from a joint publication by various Scottish Authorities.
It’s important to note that these practices are called “best practices” but have a scope of improvement due to our curiosity and constant effort for industrial advancements.
But still, they outline the best practices and techniques to follow while carrying out the wind farm project.
In fact, these practices and lessons learned should go with almost any kind of construction work aiming at goals of sustainability.
Nasir is a Digital Marketer, a Writer, an Energy Enthusiast, & simultaneously all sometimes at LogicLadder, India. So, you may find him either researching energy papers on his desk with a cup of coffee on his side, or planning marketing activities for other energy enthusiasts.