Bringing considerate practice to their joint venture wind farm project in Wales – Jones Bros and Balfour Beatty
Balfour Beatty and Jones Bros’ 50:50 joint venture was to design, procure and install the 76 turbine Pen Y Cymoedd Wind Energy Project in Wales.
The project generates enough electricity to power 188,000 homes, making it the largest onshore project in England and Wales, based in Rhondda Cynon Taf, near the Brecon Beacons National Park.
Explaining the scale of the venture, Jones Bros Project Manager, Eryl Roberts said:
“The project involved major civil engineering works, comprising of 6000 tonnes of steel and 50,000m³ of onsite batched concrete used in the construction of the turbine bases and crane pads. Due to the sheer size of the site – 4600 hectares – 85km of tracks were either constructed or upgraded, as well as the supply and installation of 450km of cable. Over 1.5million tonnes of rock, subsoil and peat were excavated, including 700,000 tonnes of excavated rock which was used for haul roads and crane pads.
“All of this work was carried out in a remote, inhospitable and environmentally sensitive landscape, just south of the Brecon Beacons. The site is 500m above sea level and included not only a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), but a Scheduled Ancient Monument (SAM).
“Sustainability and social impact were of great importance on this project. Throughout the project, nine local apprentices were recruited and over 70% of our workforce was sourced from within a 35 mile radius of the site. Project planning and site team mobilisation commenced in late 2013, and the project was completed and handed over by the middle of 2017, at a final price of £56 million.”
Due to the large area of the site, footpaths and trails crossed over the site, traffic marshals were set up to assist movement of traffic at junctions and oversee cyclists and walkers. To encourage this, a ‘Wave Hello; Wave Goodbye’ initiative was set up; this encouraged the public to make eye contact with our drivers. At busy junctions, segregated pedestrian walkways were also installed. Extra flashing strobe lights were also installed on the plant; orange at the front and blue at the rear when reversing.
Education cabin set up on site
To help keep the local community updated, construction communities were set up between local residents, businesses, councils, National Resources Wales and community groups. Notice boards located around the site shared project updates and communicated details of specific footpath closures. To help communicate with the general public as a whole, social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter were utilised, as well as a blog.
In addition to this, an education cabin was setup onsite. Community members and school pupils took part in over 400 visits, and due to the success of the cabin, it will now remain there permanently.
Concrete batching plant installed
Due to the volume of concrete on this project, the sheer number of concrete wagons would have disrupted local communities over the duration of the project. To help mitigate this, a batching plant was installed on site, which effectively eradicated this problem. Boreholes provide 100,000 litres of water per day for the batching plant.
To help protect the environment, a sewage treatment plant was installed on the site accommodation. Without this new plant, a tractor would have to tow away a large tank to remove waste once a week. The sewage plant has to be cleaned only once a year.
Full time environmental officer
The site is home to numerous environmentally sensitive areas; Craig y Ilyn (SSSI) and Ffos Toncenglau Dyke (SAM), as well as 47 archaeological sites. To help manage and oversee these sites, the project employed a full time environmental officer, who in turn was supported by two ecologists, one peat specialist and a full-time archaeologist. These helped to oversee the works around these particularly sensitive areas. Project-specific construction constraint checklists were developed and utilised throughout the project.
These were used in conjunction with extensive site monitoring which included:
- Daily monitoring of nesting bird activity and exclusion zones where required
- ECOW logs were prepared each day which recorded daily environmental events
- Hydrological monitoring was carried out
- Dust was monitored as part of the weekly site inspection and suppression by the three water bowsers
There were over 450 watercourse crossings and due to the large plant movements and earthworks over the site, water run-off and pollution were of major concern. Again, a site-specific log was created. The Silt Mitigation Handbook was drawn up and a dedicated environmental foreman managed an eight-man strong silt mitigation team. This team was responsible for installing numerous mitigation materials such as silt fencing, sedimats, ultra rocks, lagoons and PH neutralising silt-busters, including concrete wash water.
Peat receptor areas
To prevent dehydration of the peat around foundations, peat receptor areas were created with plastic sheet piling. The receptor areas were designed to receive the excess peat from turbine excavations. The majority of this peat was used to construct new peat bogs. Some of this 40,000 tonnes of peat set aside for reuse was embedded with sand for cable bedding and protection.
Water sourced from bore holes
The water for the project was obtained from four bore holes located on the site. This allowed for minimal disruption in transporting water from a nearby reservoir and therefore eliminated the need for significant lengths of piping that could have affected the local community.
Due to the vast size and number of excavations on the site, the removal of waste could have caused great logistical problems. All of the waste on site was segregated for recycling. This ensured that no waste was sent to landfill. In addition to this, over 700,000 tonnes of rock was processed for haul roads and crane pads. This helped to minimise the haulage off-site, minimising the interface of the public with large haulage vehicles, as well as helped to reduce the carbon footprint.
To help address unemployment in the local community, the project engaged with schools and facilitated upskilling through apprenticeships. Nine local residents were employed through apprenticeships and the project helped them to develop and gain experience in construction. To improve the social impact furthermore, 70% of labour was recruited from within 35miles of the site.
Here are just a few more examples of best practice carried out by the site team working on this project in accordance with the Considerate Constructors Scheme:
- All signs leading to the site are in both Welsh and English.
- To help keep the local community updated, ‘construction communities’ were set up between local residents, businesses, councils, National Resources Wales and community groups.
- Local walkers and cyclists were encouraged to write observation cards on how the site/public interface could be improved.
- Community lanes in Glynneath and Resolven were tidied up and potholes were filled, in order to improve access to Llyn Fawr Reservoir.
- At the local school – Cymbach Community Primary – site workers took half a day from their busy schedule to build new raised beds and tidy up the school fields.
- To prevent dehydration of the peat around the foundations, peat receptor areas were created with plastic sheet piling. The receptor areas were designed to receive the excess peat from turbine excavations. The majority of this peat was used to construct new peat bogs. Some of this 40,000 tonnes of peat set aside for reuse was embedded with sand for cable bedding and protection.
- A key challenge for the team was silt run-off from the construction works. This was targeted by the environmental regulator as a serious risk to the sensitive watercourse downstream. The steep topography and wet winter conditions, along with the control of the silt run-off in a peat bog environment, created significant challenges.
- The site is crossed by hundreds of small headwater streams, some of which lead to Welsh Water drinking water reservoirs, as well as a fish farm on the River Rhonda. A plan was drawn up and agreed by Natural Resource Wales which included a variety of controls which were published in a ‘Silt Pollution Prevention Techniques Site Handbook’. This was distributed to site operatives. A dedicated environmental site foreman managed an eight-man-strong silt mitigation team. This team installed silt fencing, sediment filter socks, lagoons and PH neutralising silt-busters, including concrete wash-water. All waste was segregated for recycling. This ensured no waste went to landfill.
- Numerous cycle trails and public footpaths run through the 4,600 hectare site. To avoid inconvenience to the public, these remained open throughout the length of the project.
- Segregated pedestrian walkways were also installed at busy junctions. Extra flashing strobe lights were also installed on the plant; orange at the front and blue at the rear when reversing.
- Start-up workshops were arranged following appointments to meet key team members and clarify roles and responsibilities. Again, this helped to build a collaborative culture and to understand the key objectives of the project.
- Knowledge sharing workshops were set up during the project. This included supply chain feedback to drive continuous improvement. The project launched a dedicated support package for our supply chain, in partnership the CITB, to support and encourage the membership of the 5% Club for apprentices and graduates.