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Ice halts northern N.B. wind farm

Northern New Brunswick’s cold, icy weather is causing wind turbines to freeze and stop producing power at the Caribou Wind Park near Bathurst.

The new wind farm’s 33 turbines have been generating power since November, but they have been forced to shut down for the past two days due to ice forming on some of the blades.

The wind farm has been battling ice problems all winter.

David Cousins, the Caribou Wind Park’s site manager, said when ice starts forming on the turbines’ blades, they can’t operate.

“As soon as there is ice rain or rime ice, which is fairly common in this area, the performance of the blades of the wind turbine diminishes significantly,” Cousins said.

“Just like how an airplane won’t fly with ice on it, wind turbines won’t generate electricity with ice …..”

The mild winter, according to Cousins, has meant that the precipitation has not turned to snow and has remained as ice, which has then formed on the turbine blades.

While the turbines can tolerate cold temperatures, Cousins said they don’t do well with ice.

Cousins said they’ve lost about 20 days due to ice since the park went online three months ago.

And again on Wednesday, none of the 33 windmills was operating.

The Caribou wind park near Bathurst has the capacity to produce enough electricity to power about 30,000 homes.

Company planned for problems

Danni Sabota, a spokesperson for GDF Suez Energy North America, the company that owns the park, said the company planned for these types of problems when it designed the northern wind farm.

“We have budgeted allowances for every year for possible generation interruptions like this caused by something like severe weather,” Sabota said.

“We’re still OK, but we believe – we hope – this year’s severe icing was an anomaly.”

They also hope the mild weather in the forecast will melt the ice and that there will be enough wind to get the windmills moving again.

Suez Energy was awarded a 20-year contract to build the Caribou Mountain wind farm in February 2008 and sell up to 99 megawatts of power to NB Power.

When it was announced, Suez Energy estimated it would invest $200 million to start the northern wind farm.

This isn’t the first odd development that has hit a New Brunswick wind farm. In August, a fire mysteriously destroyed one of the turbines at TransAlta Corp.’s Kent Hills Wind Farm in southeastern New Brunswick.