The largest Potain crane ever used on North American soil

Meet Sir Pix-A-Lot: the Potain MD 3200 crane that’s helping to build the Site C dam project in British Columbia

A Potain MD 3200 MAXI tower crane is helping with the construction of the Site C Clean Energy Project, the third dam and hydroelectric generating station on the Peace River in British Columbia. 

The massive crane, which is the largest Potain crane to ever be used in North America, is working on the Generating Station and Spillways (GSS) Civil Works portion of Site C. When completed, the dam will be the province’s fourth largest producer of electricity.

After some research on the market, Aecon-Flatiron-Dragados-EBC Partnership (AFDE), the construction group in charge of the project, acquired the Potain MD 3200 crane specifically for penstock installations on this job.

The crane arrived at the job site in February 2019 and began working in August, after being reconditioned to meet the group’s standards by EnCORE, Manitowoc Cranes — Tower Crane Division.  

According to Nathan Johnson, deputy intakes and penstocks manager at AFDE, the company needed a crane with the ability to receive oversized loads, like large steel penstock sections — many of which weigh more than 45.4 tonnes — at one location and move them with ease into place.

The MD 3200 was erected on the Site C job site with its base attached to a custom rail track system that can move it along the length of the dam work site, nearly 107 metres.

The custom rail track system enables it to receive oversized loads and move along the length of the job site.

“The MD 3200 is the tool we needed to perform the work. The job would have been far more challenging without this crane,” Johnson said. “We are very happy with the MD 3200’s performance — it’s the number one tool on the job site, as it can lift up to eight times more than any other tower crane on site.”  

Sir Pix-a-Lot

At the Site C jobsite, the crane has been affectionately named as “Sir Pix-a-Lot,” by some.

“It’s outstanding, it’s definitely part of the skyline. When you’re driving into the site, if you don’t know how big it really is from the horizon, it’s massive,” Johnson said.

The Potain MD 3200 MAXI includes a 101.1 metre max height, 85 metre jib, a capacity of 80 tonnes and a full extension lifting capacity of 26 tonnes.  

To complete lifts up and over the height and length of the dam from a given point, AFDE requested the crane to be designed and configured at a 78 metre height, a 70 metre jib, with 64 tonne and a full extension capacity of 37 tonnes. 

There are seven other Potain tower cranes working on site: two new MD 689 and five MD 560 cranes. 

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Construction on the Site C project commenced in 2015 and is expected to be completed in 2024.

It will provide 1,100 megawatts of capacity, and produce about 5,100 gigawatt hours of electricity each year — enough energy to power the equivalent of about 450,000 homes per year in B.C.

Without Site C, British Columbia would have an electricity capacity deficit of 8 per cent and an energy deficit of 2 per cent in 10 years, which is equivalent to the power needs of 100,000 homes.

Once completed Site C will provide clean, reliable and affordable electricity in B.C. for more than 100 years. 

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