by Stacey Lavallie
NORTHEAST TOWN—An accident that tipped a component of a $14-million crane into a Bidwell Road ditch last Tuesday, causing damage, will delay the installation of the M’Chigeeng wind turbines, a representative with the crane company confirmed.
According to Jason Lever, a crane operator with Eaglewest Wind Energy, the owner of the crane, the component sustained minor damage in the tumble and must be repaired and tested before it can be used.
“It is inoperable,” he confirmed. “Once it is repaired it will go through an NDT (non-destructive testing) before it can be used again.”
Mr. Lever said Eaglewest is working on a solution to difficulties posed by the damaged component, which weighs in at roughly 108,000 pounds. However, the crane is one of only two cranes in Canada, making it difficult to find a replacement part.
“We actually just finished a job near Thunder Bay with the other crane,” Mr. Lever said. “We will ship the crane component down by truck.”
Richards Transport Ltd. out of Saskatchewan is handling the transportation of the crane components, though the replacement component can’t start its journey until after the Thanksgiving long weekend, as provincial law doesn’t allow for wide or extra-heavy loads during holiday weekends when commuter traffic is higher.
Holidays, accidents, weather and road conditions are just some of the factors that go into planning the transportation of the large turbine pieces from point ‘ to point B, Graham Findlay from 3G Energy Corporation explained.
“It’s taking well over 20 trucks to transport in the different pieces of turbine,” he said. The turbine, when fully assembled, will stand 78-metres-tall and is transported in four different sections ranging from 20 metres to 25 metres in length.
“The shorter pieces are from the base and are wider, while the longer pieces are thinner and are for the upper reaches of the turbine,” Mr. Findlay explained. The pieces of the turbine base are roughly 25 tons each.
The pieces were originally going to be transported by truck and by barge, but there was a change at the last minute, Mr. Findlay said.
“There are no barges,” he said. “Six months ago, they (the transportation company) were surprised at the idea that they couldn’t cross the (Little Current swing) bridge and would have to go by barge. Now, a few days before they drive in, we’re told they can bring the pieces by truck after all.”
The pieces are travelling to Manitoulin from Quebec and southern Ontario.
“It’s surprisingly fast (to transport),” Mr. Findlay noted. “It’s about three days to deliver all the pieces.”
The original plan called for the wind turbines to be completely assembled onsite by the end of October 15, but with the crane arrival and assembly pushed back by the damaged piece, it is unlikely the work will be completed on schedule.
Once the actual turbine itself is assembled there is months of work ahead for Mother Earth Renewable Energy (MERE), the corporation raising the turbines in M’Chigeeng First Nation. Mr. Findlay said even though the turbines will be assembled, it takes time to complete the mechanical and electrical work that will see the installations generating power.
“We should be generating by February,” he estimated.
The three turbine blades arrived a day late, on October 6, because of the accident with the crane component.
Mr. Lever confirmed there was some contamination at the site of the accident, which occurred at the corner of Bidwell and Rockville roads. He said that while no fuel leaked from the transport truck, there was some oil and some hydraulic fluid from the crane component that did escape into the area. The Ministry of the Environment is supervising the cleanup, though had not issued a statement by press time.
According to Mr. Findlay, the accident happened around 4:30 pm on October 4, after the driver of the transport truck experienced difficulties navigating the turn. As he prepared to turn, the wheels of the rear-most trailer of the truck left the pavement and went onto the gravel shoulder. Unable to bear the unit’s weight, the shoulder crumbled and the end of the trailer went into the ditch, dragging the trailers and the cab off the road and onto its side.
The accident closed Bidwell Road for several hours, before crews were able to remove the cab. The road first reopened to one lane, then completely. The next day, the crane component was removed from the ditch.
It took two cranes and a tow-truck to lift the piece of crane from the ditch. A total of two crane operators, two riggers, two signalers, a tow-truck driver and a supervisor were on site.
Joe Hare, Chief of M’Chigeeng First Nation, said he wasn’t concerned about the small delay.
“It’ll be a few days of delay, but these kind of unexpected incidents happen,” he said. “I don’t know why this is getting so much attention, because trucks go off the road all the time.”
The driver of the transport truck, who sustained no serious injuries in the accident, has since been charged with careless driving by the Ontario Provincial Police. He said he intends to fight the charges.