Nunavik mine site turbine ready to catch wind
“We hope this technology can be of benefit to all of Nunavik”
The construction of Nunavik’s newest and possibly tallest structure is complete — a hulking 120-metre (393 foot) high wind turbine, with blades extending 40 metres from the turbine’s centre.
The new turbine is the work of Glencore, which owns the Raglan nickel mine, located about 100 kilometres south of Salluit along the northern tip of the region.
The turbine itself is situated about seven km from the mine site, meaning few people will actually get to see the giant structure.
But Glencore is hoping its impact will be far-reaching, on its Raglan mine site — which runs on roughly 60 million litres of diesel a year — and throughout Nunavik.
Wind turbines rely on giant fan-like turbines to take energy from the wind, which is then converted into electricity.
The three megawatt wind turbine at Raglan will be coupled with a 1.8 megawatt wind energy storage device — the first of its kind in the Canadian Arctic.
“It’s pretty impressive,” said Raglan mine spokeswoman Céliane Dorval. “We’re trying to twin the wind turbine with this storage system, which will capture surplus energy and allow us to use it later where there is less wind.”
The combo doesn’t come cheap though; the pilot project will run about $22 million.
Work on the 250-tonne turbine started earlier this summer, led by the project’s promoter, Tugliq Energy Co.
The turbine was originally set to be constructed closer to Deception Bay, the Hudson Strait port that Raglan ships in and out of.
But consultations with local Inuit revealed harvesters were concerned the blades would reflect sun into the water and disrupt the movement of marine wildlife.
Tugliq Energy monitored the area and found a site further inland that captured some of the highest wind speeds in the region, Dorval said.
The goal of Raglan’s pilot project is to capture enough wind energy to cut back on 2.5 million litres of diesel at the mine site.
Over the next few days, Tugliq will hook the structure up to electrical cables and do a test run of 120 hours to see how the turbine performs.
Glencore can’t say when exactly the turbine will get up and running; the energy storage system is still being constructed in the South. It should be delivered and installed by the spring of 2015.
The concept of capturing wind energy isn’t entirely new to the region; a small turbine operated in Kuujjuaq through the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Hydro Quebec announced that two communities, Kangiqsualujjuaq and Akulivik, would receive wind turbines as part of pilot projects, although no new details have emerged about those plans.
But Glencore representatives hope their wind pilot project kickstarts a move towards alternative energy sources in Nunavik, where communities are not connected to the province’s electrical grid.
“If all goes like it’s supposed to, we hope this technology can be of benefit to all of Nunavik,” Dorval said.
The Raglan nickel mine began operating in 1997, under the ownership of Falconbridge Ltd., which was acquired by Xstrata in 2006. In 2013, Xstrata merged with Glencore.
The nickel mine enjoyed record-breaking production last year: 33,793 tonnes of nickel concentrate.