Energy prices are high and getting higher all the time. Demand for energy is ever-growing, and availability declines daily. As time goes on, fossil fuel supplies are continually depleted and not being replenished. Some day in the future, the vast supplies of this precious resource will be gone, and we will be forced to turn to other sources for energy or return to the Stone Age.
In addition to the problem of depleting resources, we are faced with the reality of the byproducts of fossil fuel consumption. Pollution, smog and increasing levels of carbon dioxide are released into the atmosphere. The importance of developing clean renewable energy is escalating in proportion to the growing need for energy and clean air.
One such source for clean renewable energy is wind. Turbine generators, which are driven by wind energy, are being built where there is a sufficient supply to drive them economically. One such area is near Lawton, Okla., in an area locally called the Slick Hills. The project completed there is called Blue Canyon Wind Farm Phase Five, and the job was handled by Dykon Blasting Corp. of Tulsa, Okla.
The wind turbines are manufactured by General Electric, and each turbine has a 1.5-megawatt capacity at full output, and will produce enough power to light roughly 500 homes. Phase five involved the construction of 66 wind turbine towers. All of the wind turbines on this project were constructed in areas where rock had to be excavated for the foundations. There were two different types of foundations utilized for this project. In areas of competent rock, 19-foot diameter sockets, 20 feet deep were used. In areas of less competent material, large spread footings were constructed as bases to support the towers.
But before any wind turbines can be constructed, there must be suitable roads for getting the large equipment necessary to erect these towers in each of their locations. This project had more than 19 miles of road in order to access all 66 tower sites. The road-building crews were the first ones to work on the construction process of the project.
D8 Caterpillar dozers began scraping roadways into the landscape. The wind generators were constructed on the highest areas of the Slick Hills, where there was little to no dirt on top of solid rock. The high spots had to be blasted off for use to fill the low spots, thus the building of roads at a grade suitable for the massive cranes and other construction equipment that would be driven to each site.
The construction process started as soon as roads suitable for access were ready. Close on the heels of the dozers, graders, compactors, excavators, haul trucks and blasters were the excavating crews responsible for installing the foundations for the towers. All of these foundations had to be drilled and blasted before they could be excavated. The blasting of these foundations was accomplished concurrent with the road building process. As soon as the roads were suitable for blasting crew access, the foundations were drilled and shot.
As soon as the foundations were excavated, the rebar crews moved in and started building the large reinforcing cages for the concrete foundations. Soon afterward, the concrete was poured for the foundations. The demand for concrete was so great that two concrete batch plants were erected onsite to meet the demand.
While the concrete was being poured, tower sections and generator components were being moved to each location ahead of time. As soon as the concrete foundations had cured enough to support the load of the towers, the erection process for those began. The first erection crew assembled the blades onto the central hub, set the generator nacelle into place and erected the bottom two of three tower sections onto the foundations.
The second tower construction crew then came with a 450-ton crawler crane, and erected the top section of the tower, placed the generator nacelle, and hung the rotor with the blades attached in a single unit.
While all this was all taking place, electrical contractors were hooking up the transformers and other electrical components, and building the gathering system that would carry all of the generated electricity to a single sub-station, where it would then be sent out for public sale and consumption.
All of these operations started and were in full progress before the blasting and road construction was finished. This project required a remarkable feat of coordination to keep all of the necessary crafts moving efficiently and without interruption. All of this activity and construction traffic was taking place on a single one-lane road about 25 feet wide.
From start to finish, the blasting for all of the roads and all foundations was accomplished within the required timeframe. A total of 66 foundations and 286,000 square feet of roadway had been drilled and shot in about nine weeks.