Friday, May 21, 2010

Freak Storm Damages Wind Turbine Components

It was very sudden.
Just before midnight on Wednesday, May 19th, peaceful sleep dramatically ended with an intense sound...actually two intense sounds.

The sound of a horrendous wind nearly tearing branches from 30-foot fir trees not far from the open bedroom window had us immediately sitting up in bed, listening intently.  In the dim light of a clear sky I could see long branches being whipped like a flailing octopus from the west (or northwest).

The wind was quickly second in importance as the virtual roar of the wind turbine's blades reached a crescendo previously unheard.  My husband and I looked at one another and both said "It's not turning out of the wind," referring to the 10 kw wind turbine's blades.

The next morning at breakfast we tried to describe the wind turbine noise and couldn't exactly get it right.
"Like a jet engine," offered my husband, "increasing in intensity."  I nodded in agreement and looked out the window at a now-gentler breeze over the property.

"The turbine is dead, not turning at all," I admitted, "something's wrong."

Within five minutes I had opened the shop door and looked over the components.  Did the heat-dump go on?  I felt its exterior, it was cool.  I looked at the user panel, windspeed reading was 4 meters per second, yet the blades were not turning.  And RPM read zero.  Odd, it was even facing into the wrong direction.
Dogvane read Normal, no errors.  I glanced at the two 6 kw Aurora inverters.  No power lights were on, nothing was showing on the inverters.

Paul Wende, contractor was called and arrived mid-morning.  Inside the controller box he examined the "rectifier block", adding that "it's fried."  Minutes later, the prognosis was "no it's not, it's fine...but both  inverters are fried."

Paul assured me that both inverters will be returned to the manufacturer and that they're under a five-year warranty.


 "I always thought downtime was a good thing," intones Kia.

Not in this case!

Fortunately, no fire ensued.

An inch of rain and hail...yet tight water regulations remain

Monday's thunderstorm--despite its intensity--was a relief from hot dry windy conditions.
And the water authority's "tough love" rules for residents.

We didn't even mind the temporary flooding as eavestroughs were quickly overwhelmed and spilled their contents, one-inch gravel moved from slopes onto lawns, and thunder's intensity was immediately matched with clanging and bouncing hail. 

Numerous reports of flooded basements, driveway washouts and early-crop damage were heard, yet everyone ended their story with "...but thank goodness we received rain."

Less grateful, apparently, are officials at Greater Vernon Water, as reported in The Morning Star on May 21st.

Story by Richard Rolke, Morning Star Staff:
Restrictions have evolved, but Greater Vernon remains firmly under stage three water rules.

Rain has translated into some new snow at higher elevations, but there's still a concern that drought conditions may develop because of low reservoirs.

"We want to leave it where it is for now," said Arnold Badke, the North Okanagan Regional District's engineering general manager, of stage 3.

"We are very close to going into stage two.  We will look at reservoir levels next week.  If we are getting some ways into stage two, restrictions may change."

Badke believes weather conditions could change again so there is a need to be cautious.  "If things don't happen as we expect, we could be in trouble.  We still have to preserve water for July and August," he said.

On Wednesday, the NORD board approved a bylaw to regulate water use in Greater Vernon.  But prior to  adoption, directors made some changes to stage three rules in an attempt to minimize the impact on residents and businesses.

"I think it will address most of the concerns," said director Wayne Lippert.  "We had input from the landscape and pool industries.  We heard from agriculture and there's been changes to meet their needs."

Filling, refilling or topping up of pools will now be permitted for two hours per day, one day a week, from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. before June 15 and after August 31.  Between those dates, only topping up will be allowed.

The bylaw had previously suggested that pool filling could occur between midnight and 6 a.m., while a ban on all filling originally occurred.  "I am glad someone listed to some common sense and research," said Lee Kazmar, owner of Pools, Ponds and Waterscapes.

Under stage three, no new permits for newly seeded lawns will be issued but renewals of permits issued under lesser drought response stages will occur before June 15 and after August 31.

Placement of sod may take place until June 15 and after August 31 with a permit for a period not exceeding two weeks.

"It looks like we'll be able to work through stage three regulations," said Bonnie Leibel, owner of Lavington Turf Farms.  Leibel was concerned the old rules would keep people from purchasing turf because they couldn't irrigate.

The regional district will now establish a drought response team to prepare for future situations.

"Shouldn't the drought response team have been formed--and met--before stage 3 restrictions were issued?" questions Kia.

That would have required a modicum of planning...entirely foreign to our area's bureaucrats!

And a little birdie told us that our area (and our water board) remain "the laughing stock" of two of Kelowna's water districts.   "Why don't they (water authority) just drill new wells?  We did and we're in good shape."

Many people want that question answered.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Creating our own water woes

An excellent Letter to the Editor by resident W. Lightfoot concerning "the water issues".

I wonder if we are being hoodwinked.  Canada and B.C. in particular have more fresh water than anywhere in the world.  Billions of gallons a minute get flushed into the ocean.  It seems that we have a collection and distribution problem in Vernon.

I have lived here for 22 years and always abided with restrictions that were not onerous while my in-laws in Kelowna have never had restrictions.

I wonder why, when their population in the same time has added the population of Vernon to its usage.

I might add they pay half the rates we do as well.

This seems to be confusing as they live in a drier part of the Okanagan.  It seems Vernon does not have enough water for its present propulation never mind forecasted increases.  No one seems to have addressed the problem, which appears simple.

We spent some $40 million to hook onto a "creek" while Kelowna saw a rather large lake to draw from.  Vernon is very good at conserving water as evidenced by the early 90's implementation of water meters which reduced consumption to the point where the city raised water rates because they didn't receive the dollars projected.

Does that not sound like water is a commodity?

I wonder if this colossal error in using a creek instead of the lake is just being brushed aside with the pretense that we are the Sahara desert and everyone should only shower weekly while our good neighbours in Kelowna use what they wish.

Nice rocky landscaping will increase household temperatures so that most will increase use of air conditioning, increasing carbon footprint, etc.

Pipelines carry oil all over North America, why not water to the Okanagan from Mica Dam or the Fraser River or...?

I also wonder if the present level of Okanagan Lake is more due to someone guessing wrong and letting out more at the south end to prevent floods than due to usage.  Kelowna treats water used and returns it to the lake.

I would also bet that the lake will come up two to three feet by the end of July.

My family has a cabin on a lake on Vancouver Island and it can drop/rise 15 feet in a year due to keeping water in the rivers below for fish and I assure you no one worries about the lakefront owners.

It appears that Vernon/Coldstream has created its own problem and the only solution they have even contemplated is "let them eat cake".

It is time the 'powers that be' addressed the long-term problem of water as there is no doubt that folks will be coming from all over Canada to live here and will not put up with onerous rationing.

Take it from Okanagan Lake now and make the problem regional which will quickly make it a provincial problem and hence solvable.

By W. Lightfoot, reprinted in its entirety.

"I love that man," beams Kia.


Water restriction changes have merchants boiling

Reprint of The Morning Star, May 19, 2010, story by Richard Rolke

Attempts to address concerns about water restrictions have triggered a flood of complaints.

The Greater Vernon Advisory Committee and the North Okanagan Regional District will meet today to consider a new water restrictions bylaw for Greater Vernon.

"Hopefully it will be suitable and have solutions that will work for now," said Wayne Lippert, VGAC chairman (and Vernon Mayor).

"I expect you will see a modification of restrictions so we can manage resources better."

Greater Vernon has been on stage three water restrictions for a month because of low snowpack and reservoir levels.  The most contentious component has been not allowing pools to be filled.

The proposed bylaw -- under stage three -- would allow for pools to be filled, refilled or topped up for two hours per day, one day a week, from midnight to 6 a.m. between June 15 and Aug. 31.  Outside of those dates, only topping up would be permitted.  Filling or refilling would be allowed during the annual spill at the headgates reservoir but NORD would determine when that occurs.

"To make a person get up in the middle of the night to fill their pool is ridiculous," said Lee Kazmar, with Pools, Ponds and Waterscapes.

"There's no evaporation when you put a hose into a pool.  It doesn't make one drop of difference to water usage."

Kazmar doesn't believe the new rules will deter people from filling existing pools when they want, but it may prevent people from ordering new pools which will negatively impact businesses like his.

Opposition to the bylaw is also coming from turf producers.

"The current revision states that no new permits will be issued for new turf and it changes hand-held sprinkling for turf to once per week from every day," said Bonnie Leibel, with Lavington Turf Farms.

"This ensures that we sell no turf now.  Under stage three restrictions, every business in this community will be able to operate at some capacity except us."

The proposed bylaw also indicates that indoor commercial car washes will only be permitted if they use a minimum of 75 per cent recycled water.  Recycling systems must be in place by June 1, 2011.

"The amount of water a hotel uses is going to be more than a car wash," said Wade Cantalope, with Silver Star Car Wash.

Cantalope says he's investigated recycling systems but the installers aren't interested because his water volume is too small.

"They have bigger fish to fry."

Cantalope has not been contacted by NORD about the potential rule changes.

"They're looking for headlines but will they solve the problem?"  he said of water management.

The proposed bylaw was drafted after a drought management workshop last week.

It's anticipated stage three water restrictions will continue no matter what directors do with the bylaw today.

"We've had some rain but I can't see that changing drastically," said Arnold Badke, NORD'S engineering general manager.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Vernon Water Woes ... History

reprint of Letter to the Editor by L.J. Lewis, Morning Star, Sunday, May 2, 2010

Once upon a time, there was a fair but dry valley.  So, the farmers in this valley banded together to irrigate their fields and make the valley bloom.  They called the work of their hands the Vernon Irrigation District (VID).

And it came to pass that there were those who wished to develop the land and provide homes for those who found this now-blooming valley.

But there was not water.

Those who would develop said to the VID, "Let us tap into your water that the customers may drink."

The VID said, "No, for the water is dark and torpid and your customers would be displeased."

But the developers said, "Fear not, for they will be grateful to have water at all."

So the VID relented for the greater good.

And it came to pass that the VID had been correct for the people were peeved.

But the developers had changed and could not be found.

So the people got together and cleaned up the waters which were provided by the farmers' toil and sent the farmers the bill.

For it is the law of the land that no good deed goes unpunished.

Excellent!  Thanks for that!

VID History on the Greater Vernon Water website. 

"The new developers pay DCCs (Development Cost Charges), hopefully the money will be used to dig deep wells," offers Kia as a solution to the area's water woes.