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Turbines face cold-weather tests in harsh climate research

CANADA: Turbines designed to withstand ice and extreme cold will be tested in a moist winter environment in an effort to develop machines that can open up harsher climates to wind development.

Ice is a problem on the Gulf of St Lawrence
Ice is a problem on the Gulf of St Lawrence

Repower Systems has installed 2.05MW turbines in Quebec as part of a plan to test the German manufacturer's machines in Canada's cold climate prior to the installation of as many as 477 units in the province from 2011 until 2015.

The two turbines were expected to come online in March at the Site Nordique Experimental en eolien Corus (SNEEC), located near Riviere-au-Renard at the tip of Gaspe Peninsula (see map). They are a special cold-climate version of the MM92 model designed to operate on Canada's 60 Hertz grid.

Repower has tested its technology in cold climates before, says chief technology officer Matthias Schubert. The company operates a test facility in Inner Mongolia where its turbines are exposed to extreme temperature fluctuations, with dips as low as -40degC.

The key difference between China and Quebec, particularly on the Gulf of St Lawrence where the turbines will operate, is humidity, which makes ice build-up a problem. "We want to ensure that our turbines can prove their value, even in moist Canadian weather conditions with lots of ice and snow," says Schubert. A Repower team will monitor the turbines intensively over the coming months.

Although Repower will use the installation to test the cold weather capabilities of its technology, the turbines are owned by Quebec's TechnoCentre eolien. It plans to use the wind farm for a broader platform of research and development into the impact of the northern climate on wind turbines and their components. "The acquisition of this wind farm is a key element in the Wind Energy TechnoCentre's strategic plan, the goal being to acquire major research infrastructure," says general manager Frederic Cote. The turbines will also be available to universities, colleges and companies for their own research.

The acquisition of the turbines is part of C$20.5 million investment that includes the establishment of a test facility in the Gaspesie community of Murdochville that will couple a small wind system with diesel generation, and fit both this system and the Repower turbines with measurement instruments. Aside from the two Quebec test turbines, there are no other Repower turbines installed in Canada.

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