The project manager for Kodiak Electric Association’s Pillar Mountain High Penetration Wind Project has a tight deadline, and the foot of flakes that fell at the summit of the mountain wasn’t helping matters.
“We tried coming up here, but the visibility was just nothing,” he said Tuesday afternoon as heavy equipment growled in the background. “It was even worse Sunday than it was Saturday.”
But Monday brought warmer weather and clear skies that obliterated the new snow. By Tuesday, only the hard crust of Kodiak’s second-snowiest winter on record remained.
The unexpected snowfall was the first obstacle Oliver had to overcome as he oversees construction of three new wind turbines atop Pillar Mountain for KEA.
Oliver, who has worked on wind projects across the Lower 48, including some hundreds of turbines, said Kodiak’s three units make it the “smallest site I’ve ever been on.”
But in the two weeks since Oliver arrived in Alaska, he has experienced winter, spring and summer.
“Two years ago, when I was looking at this job, I asked them about the winter, and they said, ‘Oh, the snow will all be gone by mid-April,’” he recalled with a smile. “This isn’t supposed to be here.”
Fortunately, equipment designed to move rock and soil works just as well to carry snow. Since work began May 9 on the 3,700-foot extension of Pillar Mountain Road, it has remained on schedule.
The work under way atop the mountain sets the stage for erection of the wind turbines in late summer.
To cut the road, Oliver said, seven workers from GMC Contracting must first remove what passes for topsoil on the mountain. They then dig deeper, building and flattening a temporary road. That temporary road is compacted and layered with small rock for a firm base.
Similar techniques will be used to lay the pads for the three new turbines. Other work ongoing now includes digging trenches for underground power cables to transmit the electricity generated by the turbines.
For now, Oliver’s biggest problem has been dealing with Kodiak residents upset about occasional closures of Pillar Mountain Road as construction continues.
Last week, the road was shut at the base of the mountain as heavy equipment was moved into place. Now, closures extend only to where the road forks at the top of the mountain.
Oliver says the closures are a matter of safety.
“We just don’t want anybody being hurt,” he said.
He asks that spectators stay clear of the site, particularly while work is under way, typically from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Saturday.
Once the foundations are dug for the three new turbines, concrete experts will be brought in. Curing the concrete foundations will require about four weeks. The turbines themselves are not expected to arrive until August.
Contact Mirror editor James Brooks at email@example.com.