Grouse Mountain’s 1.5MW wind turbine

Fence and brick wall

According to the Megawatt blog and The Vancouver Sun, the Grouse Mountain ski resort is going to put a highly visible 1.5MW wind turbine near the mountain’s highest point.

While the move is more symbolic than substantive, the turbine is expected to provide about 20% of the power requirements of the resort. It will also be a tourist attraction in and of itself, with a viewing platform 58m up. The turbine is meant to go up in August or September, and produce power in early 2010, in time for the Vancouver Olympics.

The most important impact may be making people gradually more tolerant of visible renewable energy facilities. If we are going to escape our harmful dependence on fossil fuels, we are going to need a lot of them.

Author: Milan

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations and a general focus in the area of environmental politics. In the fall of 2005, I began reading for an M.Phil in IR at Wadham College, Oxford. Outside school, I am very interested in photography, writing, and the outdoors. I am writing this blog to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, provide a more personal view of graduate student life in Oxford, and pass on some lessons I've learned here.

51 thoughts on “Grouse Mountain’s 1.5MW wind turbine”

  1. This is a great idea and as you say, it will get people thinking. I am sure that it cannot offset the environmental damage caused by the expansion of the Sea-to-Sky highway to Whistler; too many trees gone and all that cement and tar in their place. I am excited about the sky train going all the way to the Airport.

  2. They’ve been trying to bring it up in pieces for quite a long time now. I know some people who live close to the mountain (like my mom) are supportive but worried about how noisy it might be. We can already hear the skyride gondola from our house some days, which seems likely to be a lot less noisy than a giant wind turbine.

  3. Here’s a link about the noise of wind turbines. They aren’t very noisy, and it’s to their disadvantage to make them noisy, because that noise is wasted energy. I would be surprised if it could be heard in most parts of the resort, let alone in the residential areas further down the mountain.

  4. As Matt says, noise is wasted energy which would be optimized out where possible. Also, the noise level from any particular source falls with the square of your distance from it. As such, it seems quite unlikely that people at the base of Grouse will be able to hear anything.

    In addition to the distance, there is also the muffling effect of all those trees to consider.

    Could they ramp up to five turbines and cover 100% of their average energy use?

    “Experts say that windmills can’t be spaced closer than 5 times their diameter without losing significant power.”

    The planned turbine has 37m blades. Spaced at five times that distance, a line of five turbines would take up 740m. I think that would be possible on Grouse, maybe with a couple on the peak and a line of three near the chalet.

    The conditions on Grouse might also let them be more closely spaced, since the wind is stronger on ridgelines than in the wind shadows behind them.

  5. I personally am not worried about noise. I figure the resort would want to do everything they could to minimize that for their own patrons. I was more just observing that that is a concern that I have heard floating around, one which I think will prove unjustified.

  6. It is important to consider possible pitfalls, especially with some a prominent project. It’s the kind of situation where any slip-up could raise widespread doubts about the overall viability of wind and renewables generally.

  7. Great discussion. I work for Grouse Mountain and would like to clarify a few points mentioned in the previous posts about noise and more turbines.

    Grouse Mountain commissioned qualified 3rd party consultants to prepare an exhaustive report on the noise impact of the wind turbine. That report concluded that the impact was negligible to non-existent. At the actual site of the turbine, the noise of the rotating blades is approximately 50 decibels, the same as the ambient noise created by your home.

    The single iconic wind turbine is meant to inspire, educate, and exhilarate. Our ability to generate 20% of our operational energy through wind is an excellent benefit of the turbine project, but we believe the most exciting success achieved through this project surrounds our ability to foster passion for alternative energy.

    We received approval from the District of North Vancouver to go ahead with the project last October, and arrival of the parts and construction is commencing this summer as originally planned.

    Feel free to let me know if you have any questions or comments about the wind turbine.

  8. Very cool. It’s great to see someone finally tapping the wind resources on the West Coast & hopefully this will be a valuable precedent.

  9. “The single iconic wind turbine is meant to inspire, educate, and exhilarate. Our ability to generate 20% of our operational energy through wind is an excellent benefit of the turbine project, but we believe the most exciting success achieved through this project surrounds our ability to foster passion for alternative energy.”

    This is amazing – the actual energy produced is considered by the resort itself to be a side benefit. The primary benefit is greenwashing the resort. Which is, incidentally, in need of some greenwashing considering how much power is wasted by leaving all their ski run lights on year round.

    Grouse has made some strange decisions since snow improved in the mid 90s – like install the peak quad which necessitates that most dangerous run I’ve ever seen on any ski hill. But this has to be the strangest decision yet.

  10. Just to be clear and fair here – I’m all for symbolic actions. But symbolic actions are only symbolic if they demonstrate themselves as being a step on the way to non-symbolic actions. I.e. installing one wind turbine is only a symbolic step towards significant alternative energy if its an integral part of a plan to install many wind turbines. If the turbine is itself the end goal, then it isn’t a symbol but a token effort.

    Again, the goal can’t be exhilaration and excitement, Grouse, it has to be reducing our dependency on fossil fuels. Saying the excitement is the goal is as absurd as presenting a report to the Grouse board where the goal of some project is to create excitement about the resort – no, the goal is to increase profits to the resort. The excitement is a means! Don’t use one set of logic for business planning, and another for climate change.

  11. I.e. installing one wind turbine is only a symbolic step towards significant alternative energy if its an integral part of a plan to install many wind turbines.

    With luck, it will do this by helping drive people towards accepting wind turbines they can see. Given that we want to reduce costs and losses associated with transmission, it often makes the most sense to put them in windy places within sight of populated areas (close to shore, for instance).

  12. “it will do this by helping drive people towards accepting wind turbines they can see.”

    Is there non-acceptance from the public currently? How much say does the public have over energy policy? When was the last time energy policy was even an issue dealt with seriously in an election?

  13. Cape Wind
    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    The Cape Wind Project is a $900 million proposed offshore wind farm on Horseshoe Shoal in Nantucket Sound off Cape Cod in Massachusetts proposed by a private developer, Cape Wind Associates. If the project moves forward on schedule, it will become one of the first offshore wind energy projects in the United States.

    Controversy

  14. NIMBY
    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    NIMBY or Nimby is an acronym for Not In My Back Yard. The term is used pejoratively to describe a new development’s opposition by residents in its vicinity. The new project being opposed is generally considered a benefit for many but has negative side-effects on its close surroundings. As a result, residents nearby the immediate location would consider it undesirable and would generally prefer the building to be “elsewhere”. The term was coined in the 1980s by British politician Nicholas Ridley, who was Conservative Secretary of State for the Environment.

  15. Well done Grouse Mountain.

    It is also helpful as a symbol that the wind turbine is the location. Grouse Mountain promotes itself as the Peak of Vancouver. It is the central and most visited of the three ski resorts on the North Shore. The wind turbine will be a very visible reminder.

    I remember watching and approving the North Vancouver district decision to approve the variance to allow its construction. It also involved the required public consultation during which there was little opposition.

    I believe Toronto has a similar symbol with a wind turbine located prominently on its waterfront.

    If this wind turbine generates 20% of the energy needs of the resort that is also more than symbolic.

    Grouse Mountain may also be doing its share of support of fitness. The Grouse Grind has inspired many to improve their level of fitness although its too bad so much fossil fuel is used transporting people there.

    I am currently in Whitehorse and observed a person in a coffee shop wearing a Grouse Mountain “I survived the Grind” T-shirt.

    William

    “Feel free to let me know if you have any questions or comments about the wind turbine.”

    Is there an easy link that you could include which would provide more information on the Grouse Mountain wind turbine

    Milan

    If this is the first wind turbine in British Columbia, where are the highest concentrations of others in Canada.

  16. If this is the first wind turbine in British Columbia, where are the highest concentrations of others in Canada.

    Ontario. Out of Canada’s total capacity of 2,775MW, 1,162MW are in Ontario.

    Quebec has 531 MW.

    Alberta has 523 MW.

    Saskatchewan has 171.2 MW.

    Manitoba has 104 MW.

    And so forth.

    Note that the average power output from most wind farms is about 1/3 of their total capacity. As such, a 3,000 MW wind farm would be roughly equivalent to a single nuclear reactor.

  17. While canoeing outside of Whitehorse this morning on the Yukon River, I saw two wind turbines on top of a hill. I was pleased to see them.

    Wind turbines in isolated locations serving small energy consumers would be worth considering for the vast and relatively lightly populated North.

  18. True, though intermittentancy is especially problematic when you aren’t connected to a larger grid, with multiple sites and generation types.

  19. I would certainly expect Grouse to choose an especially safe design and maintain it well. It’s one thing to have a turbine break down in the middle of a huge farm of them in the desert – quite another to have one break down when it is so prominently positioned and associated with your resort.

  20. Today the first trickle of electricity from BC’s first successful windpower project began feeding BC Hydro’s provincial grid. The Bear Mountain wind park built by Alta Gas on the outskirts of Dawson Creek will provide enough electricity to power about 31000 homes annually when it is fully built later this year. Two of the 34 turbines became operational today.

  21. “Which is, incidentally, in need of some greenwashing considering how much power is wasted by leaving all their ski run lights on year round.”

    The lights are controlled by an automatic timer that turns them off at 12am every morning, unless they are required for a specific mountaintop initiative. In these cases, select Grouse Mountain operational employees will manually turn the lights off immediately following the completion of their task.

    Midnight is our standard “lights off” time due to the hours of our operation and the nature of our access points. Our last uphill tram is at 10pm, after which point we switch to downloading only until our guests have left for the evening. With a number of dining options and banquet facilities, the evening’s last guests often make their descent very late. We need to ensure them safe passage through our facilities.
    2. Grouse Mountain actively pursues responsible energy practices, working closely with BC Hydro since 1999 to improve efficiency. We have undertaken extensive energy audits. From retro-fitting to more efficient technology and lighting methods, numerous recommendations stemmed from this audit, which Grouse Mountain will implement in the coming years.

    Grouse Mountain has a population of staff members who reside on site. These employees are on-call twenty-four hours a day to respond to any and all alpine emergencies, and their mountaintop homes are primarily situated along the slopes of The Cut. Safe and swift navigation through alpine areas at night requires sufficient lighting.

    A number of Grouse Mountain’s outdoor operations take place at night, and require illumination. For safety reasons, extensive run grooming (both winter and summer), routine machine maintenance, and alpine patrol/training operations are performed when our guests have left for the evening.

    Additionally, Grouse Mountain is an access point for a number of trails that are frequented by hikers of all ages and abilities. Aside from being an excellent navigation tool for nighttime hikers, the lights of The Cut assist alpine patrollers with their final “sweep” of the neighbouring trails, ensuring that hikers, snowshoers, skiers, and snowboarders are clearing the mountain in time to make the last downhill tram.

    Grouse Mountain has an alpine helicopter pad that can serve both commercial and rescue aircraft. When explicitly requested by pilots, Grouse Mountain will make the lights of The Cut available.

  22. “With a number of dining options and banquet facilities, the evening’s last guests often make their descent very late. We need to ensure them safe passage through our facilities.”

    So, it is necessary for safety’s sake to keep all of the ski lights on until midnight in the summer? Including the one’s on the peak, and down into Blueberry bowl? Sure, in the winter the lights need to stay on long enough for the patrol to do their sweep – but in the summer this seems absurd. Everybody knows the lights stay on primarily because it is excellent advertising for the resort.

  23. We have more visitors to the resort in the summer than we do in the winter. Guests remain on the mountain – including the summit – past midnight and we don’t want them walking around in the dark. We also do not provide flashlights for hikers accessing Dam Mountain other backcountry areas from the trails here, and the lights obviously help people find their way back.

  24. Guests of the resort are on the mountain after midnight? An hour after the last tram goes down?

    No, the people up there that late are not “guests of the resort”, but bad hikers who won’t be able to take the tram down anyway. If anything, the lighting provides them with an encouragement not to bring their own lighting – which is irresponsible since they will have to descend via the Grind which is not lit.

    Or perhaps you should just light the Grind as well. Hey, while were at it, why not light all other hikes in the north Vancouver area? This is no more absurd than keeping the lights on for an hour after the last tram goes down.

    But, frankly I wouldn’t expect a very reasonable safety policy from Grouse Mountain. Not after the construction of the peak chair and the awful, overcrowded and steep “blue” run that circles around the back – I’d like to know how many serious injuries are caused by that abomination of planning each year.

  25. Regarding Grouse Mountain’s safety policy, I commend Grouse Mountain and North Shore Rescue for providing a sweep for hikers at the end of the day for the Grind. A member of the North Shore Rescue (an amazing group of volunteers) sweeps the Grind at the end of the hiking day to help any hiker in trouble.

    There will be increased injuries will there is increased activity. However, I expect Grouse Mountain increases its safety commitment accordingly.

    William,

    Do you know if Grouse Mountain make a donation to North Shore Rescue.

  26. Blueberry Bowl is not lit up at night – The Cut, Greenway and Peak are. Grouse Mountain is privately-owned and anyone on the premises is either a guest or staff, simple. You should also know the hours of the Grind are established by Metro Vancouver.

    “…abomination of planning”, unfortunately this conversation about wind energy has become a platform for unsubstantiated criticism from one individual about the overall operation of the resort.

    Oleh, yes Grouse Mountain is supportive and contributes to fundraising initiatives brought forward by North Shore Rescue. They may be able to clarify.

  27. On the general subject of renewable energy. it would be interesting to know if Grouse Mountain has experienced any direct effects from climate change already. For instance, changes in quantity of snowfall or the amount of snowmaking activity undertaken. The resort must have records going back for at least a couple of decades.

    How much of an effect would a temperature impact of a few degrees Celsius have on the snowpack of the North Shore mountains, as well as the watersheds below them?

  28. The wind turbine has been erected and is very visible, from all parts of Vancouver, it is massive. My sister’s boyfriend had the opportunity to view it close up from a helicopter, and he showed me the pictures of that. The observation pod is very near the top of the tower, and I’ll bet the view is spectacular. I’ll also bet it’ll be a huge money maker, at ~$20 a person.

  29. Cool. Someone should link to a photo.

    If I can get three weeks or so off work in December, I hope to take the train to Vancouver, via Chicago and Everett, probably.

  30. “has become a platform for unsubstantiated criticism from one individual about the overall operation of the resort.”

    William,

    How is my comment that one run is quite dangerous due to steepness and overcrowding an unsubstantiated general criticism of the resort? It isn’t general (it’s specific), nor is it unsubstantiated (do you doubt that I’ve skied it? Why?). Have you skied the run? Do you not think it’s a problem?

    It could easily have been avoided if the peak chair only went to the top of Inferno, which is incidentally where the bulldozed run joins the old lower peak run. The run cut around the mountain is not too steep, but is extremely crowded on busy days and I’ve witnessed many accidents (luckily none that were serious).

    And, it’s not crazy to think this planning decision could be related to the wind turbine – because if the chair had only gone as high as Inferno, it would not have taken summer guests to the base of the 20$ view.

  31. Grouse Mountain Wind Turbine

    By wgb@cwilson.com (Warren Brazier) on Wind

    Following up on my earlier blog post on the Grouse Mountain wind turbine, there have been some new developments. This past weekend, the single 1.5 MW wind turbine was erected on the east side of the mountain and it is quite a sight. On a clear day, the 65 meter high turbine will be highly visible from many parts around the lower mainland.
    As the Province newspaper reported the privately built turbine is expected be fully operational by January 2010 and will generate up to 25% of Grouse Mountain’s electricity requirements.

    The unique turbine, which is part electricity generator and part tourist attraction (it will have a viewing platform midway up) will no doubt spur interest in British Columbia’s growing wind energy industry. Here is a link to some great shots of the turbine during construction.

    For those who are interested in wind energy generally you can check out the Canadian Wind Energy Association and click here to see Canada’s current installed wind energy capacity.

  32. We went up Grouse and saw the turbine last weekend. Simply awesome. Well done and cudos to Grouse for having the vision to do it!!!
    Too bad that BC Hydro is still proposing to build Site C dam which is an environmental disaster. My experience with them is that they are very reluctant to accept wind power. Let hope this helps them see the light!

  33. Flooding huge tracts of arable land in regions which will become more productive as temperatures rise does not strike me as a climate change-smart energy solution. But what’s worse than the planned destruction of farmland is the farmland (and humans, I suppose) that would be destroyed in the case of site A, B or C failing (either upstream dam failing would cause site C to fail).

  34. This goes back to MacKay’s point about how, if we are serious about dealing with climate change, we need to start saying yes to policies and technologies consistent with that goal, even if they are problematic for other reasons.

  35. That point is too broad to be serious. It could be used as a justification for policies whose effects might make the effects of climate change worse – like this one, for instance. It amounts to – “things are really bad – so stop thinking and start blindly saying yes to the few things that corperate interests don’t block progress on”.

  36. If you are really concerned about tipping points and positive feedbacks, you need to say yes to an awful lot. Things like big dams, nuclear, and CCS probably fall into that category.

  37. This is related (though the point made is the opposite of mine):

    Nonetheless, Stewart rejects all non-nuclear options, for four fallacious reasons:


    Portfolio: We need every tool for combating climate change, including nuclear power.


    Portfolio: The one paper he cites as proof that we need all energy options (Pacala & Socolow’s “Stabilization Wedges”) actually says the opposite. There is no analytic basis for his conclusion, and there’s strong science to the contrary. We can’t afford to stuff our energy portfolio indiscriminately with some of everything, and we shouldn’t: some options are less worthy and effective than others. The more you fear climate change, the more judiciously you should invest to get the most solution per dollar and per year. Nuclear flunks both these tests.

    It is a very tricky thing, making sure we do enough on climate change mitigation, while trying to avoid the costs and other negative consequences associated with our various options.

  38. BC’s Bear Mountain Adds 102 MW to Canada’s Current Installed Wind Energy Capacity

    By wgb@cwilson.com (Warren Brazier) on Wind Energy Canada

    Following up on my earlier blog post, the Bear Mountain Wind Park is now officially open, online and generating electrons to the British Columbia power grid, bringing Canada’s total current installed wind energy capacity to 2,956 MW.

    The $200 million Bear Mountain project located near Dawson Creek, BC was completed on time and on budget. With a total capacity of 102 MW, the park will produce enough energy to power most of BC’s South Peace region. Under the Government of Canada’s ecoENERGY for Renewable Power program, the project will receive a one cent per kilowatt-hour incentive over the next ten years, in accordance with the terms of the agreement. The project includes green attributes, which AltaGas can trade or sell to third parties. One of those third party purchaser’s is Bullfrog Power.

  39. On Saturday was the first time that I saw the Grouse Mountain turbine turning. It made me smile. I hope this is a harbinger for the use of more renewable forms of energy.

  40. The turbine is not an ‘eyesore’ as I have heard people comment. If anything is said about ‘eyesores’ perhaps the clearcuts, radio towers, and houses on the side of the mountains should also been considered.

    Has anyone living nearest it heard any noise? If so, what kind?

    I should state that we live inside the boundaries of a 38 unit wind farm and I actually find them very useful.

  41. This relates to the discussion of Site C above:

    Hydroelectric power’s dirty secret revealed

    http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn7046-hydroelectric-powers-dirty-secret-revealed.html

    “The green image of hydro power as a benign alternative to fossil fuels is false, says Éric Duchemin, a consultant for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). “Everyone thinks hydro is very clean, but this is not the case,” he says.

    Hydroelectric dams produce significant amounts of carbon dioxide and methane, and in some cases produce more of these greenhouse gases than power plants running on fossil fuels. Carbon emissions vary from dam to dam, says Philip Fearnside from Brazil’s National Institute for Research in the Amazon in Manaus. “But we do know that there are enough emissions to worry about.”

    In a study to be published in Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change, Fearnside estimates that in 1990 the greenhouse effect of emissions from the Curuá-Una dam in Pará, Brazil, was more than three-and-a-half times what would have been produced by generating the same amount of electricity from oil.

    This is because large amounts of carbon tied up in trees and other plants are released when the reservoir is initially flooded and the plants rot. Then after this first pulse of decay, plant matter settling on the reservoir’s bottom decomposes without oxygen, resulting in a build-up of dissolved methane. This is released into the atmosphere when water passes through the dam’s turbines.”

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