The Eye of the Wind – North Vancouver, British Columbia - Atlas Obscura
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North Vancouver, British Columbia

The Eye of the Wind

The mountaintop wind turbine boasts a viewing deck — and a fair share of controversy. 

When you build North America’s first extreme high altitude wind turbine, and the world’s first wind turbine with an elevator and viewing deck, you can expect to encounter a few hurdles along the way.

Finished in February 2010 just before of the opening of the Vancouver Winter Olympics, The Eye of the Wind sits atop Grouse Mountain, just north of Vancouver. Weighing more than 250 tons and standing 65 meters tall, the turbine is easily visible throughout the surrounding area. Of course, building something that large and technologically sophisticated on top of a mountain involved some unique challenges. In particular, getting all the necessary machinery and structural components to the constrained building site required a bit of extra work, such as lengthening and widening mountain roads, assembling the 360-degree glass-enclosed viewing deck onsite, and flying the turbine rotors in by helicopter.

After construction was complete, the 1.5 megawatt turbine could not be connected to the power grid until it was outfitted with various pieces of safety equipment (such as electrical output monitors and emergency shutdown devices) required by the local power utility. Thus, the Eye of the Wind did not start actually supplying power until September 22, 2010.

Even after that, though, the project was not without it skeptics. Some questioned whether the turbine could reliably satisfy 25% of the power needs of Grouse Mountain Resort, as had been promised. The ski resort itself conducted an environmental study that suggested the turbine might have a negative impact on local bat and migrating bird populations (including the interesting metric of “mean bat-deaths per-turbine,” which in North America ranges considerably “from 0.1 to 69.6 per year”). Some local residents simply thought the turbine spoiled the view.

On the other hand, the Eye of the Wind continues to be a green energy icon in British Columbia, representing not only Vancouver’s first large-scale wind energy project, but also the province’s commitment to achieving zero-emission electricity self-sustainability by 2016.

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