by Harvey Wrightman
Try as we might to get proper recognition and proper assessment of the dangers of “stray voltage”, both the MOECC and the wind companies vigorously opposed any degree of scrutiny whether at the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) hearings or the project appeals at the Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT). The stock response from wind company flunkies was that “stray voltage” was a problem for Hydro One and was not caused by wind turbines or associated equipment.
It all began in early March 2015, from local reports in the NextEra Adelaide wind project:
March 5 – resident calls in power outage. Hydro One rep is not aware of any scheduled outage, but several Hydro trucks are seen in the wind project area and the turbines are off. Hydro rep says, “to ask the guys driving around…” ???
March 18 – resident reports, “So, we had another hydro outage today…Bell phone and internet is out. A Bell recorded message says, it is out in the area til 10:30 PM on Friday !!!!!” – 3 days away. By coincidence (surely), turbines are not operating.
April 21 – Union Gas Rep talks:
Resident: What about stray voltage?
Union Gas Rep: How’d you know about that?
Resident: I guess that Gas and Bell trucks don’t normally work weekends, do they?
Union Gas Rep: (head hanging down) No, they sure don’t…. It’s been a nightmare with Hydro having stray voltage like crazy.
Apparently Union Gas is confident enough to offer some detail in this application for a work permit submitted to Adelaide-Metcalfe Township on August 10, 2015.
“To install on existing pipe, Cathodic protection to mitigate induced voltage from Nextera Power Lines. (Kerwood Rd, Cuddy Drive, Langan Dr). Mitigation wires to be installed using directional drilling at 1.5m or as close to fence line (P/L) as possible and 1m below any drains that are to be crossed.”
One would think that Union Gas would have run this past their legal staff before pointing the finger at NextEra.
The collector lines that gather all the power produced by a wind project are now commonly buried on leaseholder lands and municipal roadways (municipalities can’t stop them). Not only is current leakage possible, it has been happening ever since the projects were built – basically existing in a grey, no-man’s-land area of regulation – the OEB does not oversee them like they do the larger lines. At 34,000kV – they represent a huge amount of electrical power that is also quite dangerous if not properly contained. Minimum depth of earth cover is only one metre and there minimal inspection to ensure that.
Moreover, the cables are grounded to earth periodically. If there are power surges, or interruption of power flow to the grid, the instantaneous response is to dump the excess to the ground. In a conventional power plant, ground rods are driven deep into the earth to ensure that surges are not picked up by local features – i.e. the surface water flows, local power lines. Wind turbines and their collector systems are more shallowly grounded and can enter the local surface features. Union Gas is saying just that in its application. The effect of siting wind turbines over a large area exposes a great many “receptors”, be they buildings, animals or people, to the effects of random power surges. This cannot be good.
This represents a huge regulatory gap that will only get worse as renewable energy projects expand.