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CanWEA O&M summit highlights electrical safety for wind farms


February 5, 2019
By Peter Saunders


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Photo courtesy CanWEA

February 5, 2019 – At its fifth annual operations and maintenance (O&M) summit last week in Mississauga, Ont., which more than 260 professionals attended, the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) highlighted its new guide, Best Practices in Wind Power Facility Electrical Safety.

The guide outlines recommended methods for safely operating and maintaining the electrical systems specific to wind power generation facilities across Canada. It also discusses training programs for system operators, technicians and supervisors, including those to qualify electrical workers to perform tasks (a) exposed to low-voltage risks and hazards and (b) around energized equipment rated greater than 1,000 V AC.

“While turbine manufacturers have ground crews and sometimes their own offices at large wind farms, their service team members are technicians, not necessarily electricians,” explained Phil McKay, CanWEA’s O&M program director, in a pre-summit interview with Electrical Business. “So, there is an opportunity for locally qualified electrical professionals to do the same work as, say, at a gas plant.”

With an emphasis on CSA Z462, Workplace Electrical Safety Standard, the guide covers major components of wind power facilities, including generators, control panels, slip rings, batteries, capacitors, transformers, collector systems, substations and test equipment.

“Annex F of Z462 can become part of the workplace health and safety system for wind farms,” said Mike Doherty, electrical safety consultant with e-Hazard (and regular columnist for Electrical Business), during his summit presentation about shock and arc flash risks. “There’s a lot the wind industry could learn from nuclear in terms of job safety planning.”

Wind energy is playing an expanding role in the Canadian electrical grid, with a 10-year average annual growth rate of 20%, making it the largest source of new electricity capacity. As of December 2018, there were 6,596 wind turbines operating across the country, representing an installed capacity of 12,816 MW, sufficient to power approximately 3.3 million homes. One reason for this growth is wind energy’s cost, which has decreased by 69% since 2009 and is forecast to continue to drop in the coming years.

To read the new guide, click here.