How Finland’s largest wind farm is being built: New solutions & efficient teamwork

27.04.2020

Finland’s largest wind farm, which is being built in Piiparinmäki in Kainuu, requires everyday innovations and close teamwork in order to be completed. The foundation casting of the first turbines is ready and work is even ahead of schedule. Unique construction site arrangements are in place due to the coronavirus situation.

Although the rest of Finland has quietened down over the past few weeks, activity at the construction site of Piiparinmäki wind farm, which is located in the border regions of Pyhäntä and Kajaani, has increased. However, work is still carried out with particular precautions. Already before the government regulations entered in to force, special arrangements were made at the construction site with took into account potential chains of contagion.

Keski-Suomen Betonirakenne Oy KSBR is responsible for the infrastructure construction of Piiparinmäki in Ilmatar Energy Oy’s project. The project manager, KSBR’s construction manager Petteri Mäkelä explains that the construction site has an average of 80 workers, who were split into smaller teams at the beginning of March.

– The idea is that the teams are not involved with each other at work or during leisure time. In this way, we can minimise the risk of contagion, if someone falls ill. This requires an increase in social premises as well as other arrangements, which have worked very well. The most important aspect is to safeguard the health of workers, Mäkelä states.

According to Mäkelä, the comprehensive and active subcontracting chain and cooperation network allow work to progress according to schedule even in exceptional conditions. Work has not been delayed due to the lac of materials either.

40 kilometres of road in the area

When a wind farm of 41 turbines is to be built, the relevant numbers of the project are astonishing. For example, 40 kilometres of roads shall be built in the area of the wind farm.

– My drive from the construction site’s base to the furthest turbine is more than half an hour, states Mäkelä.

Along the way, many different vehicles can be seen; tractors, rollers, trucks, dumpers, excavators, graders, drill rigs, cranes, mobile concrete stations, crushers – and many smiling workers. During the best days, a load of six steel lorries are unloaded. Both sand and concrete is constantly transported with four lorries, and approximately ten of earthworks company MR Takanen’s dumper trucks are continuously transporting aggregate material.

Work at the construction site of Finland’s largest wind farm does not progress one task at a time. All work stages progress simultaneously.

– The strongest basis of the project is formed when we develop our cooperation network and form a team of the top professionals in various industries. The project organisation of both the client and KSBR has been fine-tuned to its best. When a project has been planned well, everyone is aware of their own role. A project of this size can only be successful if the cooperation between all parties is seamless, says Mäkelä.

The group of professionals consists of, for example, design, civil engineering, concrete production and concreting, reinforcement and major electrical work experts.

Parallel design and implementation

KSBR started the construction of Piiparinmäki wind farm in October 2019. Over the course of a year, 41 turbines shall be constructed, which requires efficient scheduling and resource planning. KSBR’s responsible site foreman Rauno Laakkonen is a man who ensures the success of day-to-day operations.

– The scale of Piiparinmäki multiplies the amount all operations. For example, we use a lot of time orientating workers, and more than half a day is easily spent preparing the weekly safety measurements, explains Laakkonen.

Over the years, KSBR has adopted a strong routine and gained experience from several wind farm construction sites which has taught KSBR’s operators a lot. It is particularly important to find a plan B when plan A does not work for one reason or another. Solution-oriented and innovative thinking and flexibility have made KSBR a desired partner, because some of the plans will unavoidably change at the construction sites.

The development manager of the project, Petri Ainonen from Ilmatar Energy says that the design and implementation of work at Piiparinmäki constantly run hand in hand.

– This also allows the plans to be reviewed during the construction work, Ainonen states.

Innovative solution for the foundations

An important milestone of the 41-turbine wind farm was achieved when the foundations of the first four turbines were completed in the first half of April.

– There are still 37 casts left and the last one will be completed in July, states the responsible site foreman Laakkonen.

According to him, earthworks are ahead of schedule despite the exceptional conditions, and the entire construction site is progressing according to schedule. Work also progressed according to plan during the winter. The schedule of the infrastructure work is also unforeseen. When the completion of a wind farm of approximately 7 turbines usually takes half a year, the wind farm of 41 turbines is expected to be completed in a year.

The infrastructure work carried out by KSBR is due to be completed at the end of the summer 2020, after which the installation of wind turbines shall begin. Simultaneously with the infrastructure work, progress at Piiparinmäki continues to be made and a wind farm visitor centre is also being built. According to Petri Ainonen, it is open upon booking and it welcomes visitors who are interested in wind power and sustainable development.

Regular safety sessions for everyone

Occupational safety is a theme emphasised by both project manager Mäkelä and responsible site foreman Laakkonen. It is invested in at all of KSBR’s construction sites both during normal conditions and exceptional conditions. The intention is not to manage with minimum effort, but instead keep the standard a lot higher at a higher level of self-initiative.

– In its inspections, the Regional State Administrative Agency has stated that our operations at Piiparinmäki are excellent, and the client has organised a safety audit. We immediately take action on shortcomings that are observed in our everyday operations, and we arrange a weekly safety session for all Piiparinmäki workers that focuses on a certain theme. The themes have currently touched on coronavirus, and other themes have included speed limits and radio communications at the construction site, Laakkonen describes.

The level of occupational safety is assessed on a weekly basis by means of TR/MVR measurements.

Benefits to all taxpayers

The founder of Piiparinmäki wind farm’s developer Windpower Oyj, development director Mikko Toivanen states that Piiparinmäki represents an entirely new type of wind farm on a Finnish scale and at Ilmatar.

– In terms of size, it is Finland’s largest wind farm and it is among the largest in Europe. In addition to this, new technologies and large turbines enable a significant amount of electricity to be produced, says Toivanen.

According to Toivanen, the project financially benefits every single Finnish taxpayer.

– Piiparinmäki is situated in a very secluded location far away from residential settlements on Metsähallitus’ land. It does not receive any subsidies from the government or municipalities. More than half of the electricity produced shall be sold to Google under a long-term power purchase agreement and the rest shall be included in the Nordic electricity market. Therefore, even a normal consumer has the opportunity to purchase this electricity, Toivanen states.

Technology company Google and Ilmatar Energy have agreed that Google shall purchase approximately 60 percent of the wind farm’s production. The agreement is part of Google’s historically largest investment in renewable energy. According to Toivanen, Google is a global pioneer in the use of renewable energy.

– It is very important to Google that it increases the development of renewable energy. Therefore, it does not purchase from existing power plants, but instead it wishes to support new construction.

 

Piiparinmäki wind farm

  • Is located in the area between Pyhäntä and Kajaani, in Kainuu.
  • Annually produces more than 700 GWh of renewable energy for the Finnish power grid at a rated power of 211 MW.
  • The project involves 41 turbine sites.
  • The tip height is 230 metres.
  • The client is the Finnish wind energy company Ilmatar Energy Oy.
  • KSBR is responsible for the implementation of the wind farm.
  • The main subcontractors are Ramboll, MR Takanen, Infratiera and Siikajoen Betonitukku.
  • The owner of the wind farm is Glennmont Partners.
  • The wind farm shall be completed in 2021.
  • Google shall purchase approximately 60 percent of the wind farm’s production.
  • Electricity produced by Ilmatar’s wind farms can be purchased at ilmatar.fi.

Photos: Risto Mäläskä

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