Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Eye of the Wind

We’re on vacation visiting family in Vancouver, British Columbia and had the rare treat to go to the top of a wind turbine on Grouse Mountain.  The 1.5 megawatt turbine provides about 25% of the electricity the mountain needs to operate, and it makes a beautiful, powerful statement on the top of this urban ski mountain.

But the owners of Grouse have taken it one step further, and installed a custom-built, glassed in viewing pod at the top of the turbine – The Eye of the Wind – the world’s first elevator-accessible viewPOD.  For $25, you take an elevator to the top and take in spectacular views of the city, ocean, and surrounding mountains. 

The thrill of some slight vertigo along with the chance to learn all about wind power and see the area from a really unique perspective makes it well worth the price of admission.  One section of the floor is see-through glass, and demands some courage and faith-in-engineering to step on. 

Each pane of the glass wall has some fun-facts about how the turbine works and the local area.  A flatscreen provides real-time data about wind speed, electricity generation, carbon avoided, etc. (unfortunately the wind wasn’t blowing at a sustained rate of over 9 km/hr while we were there, so the blades weren’t turning, and they’re still addressing the final hurdles before they can tie in to the grid).  

Grouse rents out the pod for corporate functions and the like, and have done a great job of maximizing the value of their wind turbine.   The turbine was built by Leitwind out of Italy, a division of the company that builds some of their chairlifts, and the pod was custom built using components from 10 different countries.

While the folks back home in Massachusetts, have been arguing over the impacts on tourism of the Cape Wind project, this project pushed ahead and has shown that turbines themselves can be a revenue-generating tourist attraction.  I’d sign up right away for a boat tour through the first offshore wind farm in the US – not only to see those beautiful turbines up close, but to be a part of history, experiencing the early steps of creating a safe, independent, clean energy system. 

Stay going. 


Gaby said...

Any idea on the effect of that element on the generated energy? I would assume that the turbulent flow and wake behind the turbine could have an adverse effect. Just curious.

Georges Dyer said...

Great question - I'm sure they looked into that sufficiently and determined if it did have adverse impacts, they weren't significant enough to avoid going ahead with installing the pod - but I have no idea!