Surespan Wind Energy Services Ltd.
The energy sector is currently undergoing significant change as the world continues to pursue the development of an economy that is less dependent on fossil fuels. Based in Ayr, Ont., Surespan Wind Energy Services Ltd. has become one of the fastest growing full-service wind energy companies in North America, and provides its clients with over 35 years of experience designing, supplying and constructing high quality wind energy solutions and installation.
Parent company Surespan Group was started circa 1975 by Nigel Bester as a bridge-building company, particularly the logging bridges in forestry, but quickly branched out into many other industries such as precast concrete, civil works and, of course wind energy. And it happened at just the right time because, according to Canadian Wind Energy Association, the annual growth rate for the wind energy industry in Canada has been at 18%, and as of December 2016, Ontario alone has 2,465 wind turbines, with 4,781MW of total installed capacity, supplying about 5% of the province’s electricity demand. Ontario also added 11 installations to the province’s current wind fleet — an addition of 420MW to current generation capacity.
The Canadian Business Journal spoke with Jason Dashney, CEO of Surespan Wind, about Surespan’s niche erecting wind turbines, and its engineering advantage when it comes to these specialized installations.
“I started the Surespan Wind division about five years ago. We opened our office in Ayr, Ont., and launched with two large cranes. Today, we service the Canadian market with wind turbine installations, erection and maintenance, and since the launch we erected about 350 to 400 turbines, and the wind turbine installation represents about 40% of the Surespan Group’s business today,” says Dashney.
Surespan provides full gamut of engineering services. The pre-construction includes project planning, management, and overall logistics; construction includes material offload, wind turbine erection, crane services, and elevator installation; maintenance includes component exchange, blade repair and elevator servicing. And while the service list is extensive, Surespan is always focused on complete client satisfaction and quality assurance.
Commitment to satisfaction lies at the core of everything Surespan does, but one of its ultimate strengths is its equipment. Surespan is the only wind energy installer in North America with two Liebherr LG 1750 cranes in its fleet. These cranes’ provide a number of advantages, including high reach and load capacities, efficient maneuvering on the construction site, ability to be driven on public roads, boom height configuration of up to 150 metres, and is able to lift any onshore MW-class turbine.
“In fact, there are only three of these cranes in north America, and we own two of them, and we also have a lot of auxiliary equipment, of course,” says Dashney. “As per the challenges, ironically, weather conditions and wind work against us and represent a constant challenge. We can only work when the wind speed is 10km/hr or less. And because the projects are erected primarily in farmers’ fields, snow, rain and mud are also a challenge,” says Dashney.
Dashney recollects to first company project — the South Kent Wind Project, where the company was hired to erect 124 Siemens wind turbines with output of 2.3MW spread over 75 square kilometres. The project was completed in March 2014. “This was very interesting time for us, because we were building the company and the project at the same time. This will likely always make it the most interesting project for me.”
Since then, Surespan executed a number of projects across Ontario and Canada, and all of them interesting in their own right, including projects in dramatic Canadian landscapes of Northern Ontario, such as the Bow Lake and Goulais River near Sault Ste. Marie. Bow Lake Wind Farm project required Surespan to install 24 1.62MW towers and supply labour for the maintenance of this farm, and Goulais River Wind required erection of 11 3.0KW turbines.
With changes coming to Ontario energy industry as the province turns its focus on low-carbon energy projects, Dashney expects a build out of new available projects, including delivering the LRP I. (Large Renewable Project) in Ontario. The LRP I. will execute over 450MW of new wind, solar, and waterpower contracts. The LRP II. procurement targets include up to 600MW of wind, 250MW of solar, 50MW of waterpower, 30MW of bioenergy. The LRP is an important component of Ontario’s ongoing commitment to building a cleaner and more sustainable energy system, and represents a key step in the province’s 2025 target of renewable energy to comprise about half of Ontario’s installed capacity.
“We have a very positive outlook beyond LRP I. Alberta and Saskatchewan are also coming online in next couple of years, so we plan to shift to this market in the future,” reveals Dashney. “We have been also bidding in the U.S. and developing our reputation in this market as well, so we see some wind in positive direction.”