Permafrost discovery throws wind farm planners for a loop

Planners have to re-work plans for a wind farm near Burwash Landing, Yukon, because a mapping project has found permafrost in an area where it wasn't expected.

Plans for wind farm in Burwash Landing have to be altered

A landscape mapping project in Yukon has turned up information critical for land development in some areas.

Recent surveys in the Burwash Landing and Destruction Bay areas have discovered large swaths of permafrost.

Burwash is in the midst of designing a 300-kilowatt wind farm.

The discovery has made planning for the farm more challenging. The area which the town is looking to build on has permafrost half a metre below ground.

Wind consultant JP Pinard has worked on wind farms in Paulatuk and Tuktoyaktuk in the N.W.T.

"It was a complete surprise to me to find permafrost … even closer to the surface," he said.

Yukon College researchers spent the fall mapping hydrology and permafrost conditions around Burwash.

"It was perfect for us because we needed this kind of assessment," said Pinard.

As a result, Pinard is exploring new designs for the wind turbines, including installing them in the winter and anchoring them into permafrost.

Project coordinator Bronwyn Benkert said the mapping has been well-received.

"Really a lot of opportunity to kind of contribute to community-based planning that wouldn't have happened if this project had not taken place," said Benkert.

Yukon College has already mapped Mayo and Pelly Crossing, and plans to map Dawson City next.