As wind power technology continues to develop, we have seen not only the power capacity, but the size of turbines, grow year on year. While a large wind turbine may well be more efficient than a smaller one once installed and connected to the grid, the transportation of these massive wind turbines can be a real headache. Whether the journey begins from a wind turbine manufacturer's factory, or from an existing wind farm site where a turbine is being dismantled to be transported to a new site or for refurbishment, the method of transport and route to be taken must be planned carefully.
Nacelles can weigh as much as 205,000 pounds, while just one half of a turbine tower can be 15-ft (4.5 metres) wide and almost 120-ft (37 metres) long. Then we have the blades. They are getting longer and longer- 180 ft (55 metres) or more. Clearly you can't just hire a standard flat-bed truck and hope for the best; moving these structures takes special equipment, trucks, trains, ships, freight-yards and harbours. Asa an example Siemens uses its own designed custom-built railway wagons.
The ideal method of transportation is often by sea or rail to begin with, to a place close to the site of the wind farm. In this way the most fractious part of the journey, by road, is reduced to a minimum. Not only must the trucks and rigs be purpose built or customised for the journey, many countries require drivers to have special licences.
While railways may seem ideal, it depends upon the country. The United States tends to have railway tracks that are free from obstructions that may impede progress, but many countries have numerous bridges and tunnels. A cargo width of 12.5 ft (just under 4 metres) is about maximum. Some tunnels in states such as West Virginia are narrower.
West Coast US ports have seen a growing number of wind component imports from Asia, especially China, headed to farms in the Northwest, upper the Midwest, and Canada. Some are redesigning their port facilities so as to be more easily able to handle large parts such as wind turbine blades, towers and nacelles. One in Vancouver, Washington, even has its own wind farm facility to help power the cranes and other facilities there.
A few manufacturers are taking matters into their own hands. For instance, Siemens Energy along with state and local public officials, and a host of community leaders, have opened a 64,000- square foot (nearly 6,000 square metres) wind service distribution center in Oklahoma– which for them is the centre of wind country. The new facility is said to underscore the firm’s commitment to providing increased efficiency to its wind power customers throughout the region. With its geographic location in the heart of the wind belt, the company says the facility will allow for reduced delivery times and greater parts availability as the company follows through on its strategic focus. The wind service centre will store and distribute main components and spare parts, including wind turbine blades, drive assemblies and generators, as well as tooling operations. The warehousing operation opened with 14 employees.
It's becoming more common to see large wind turbine parts being transported on roads, rail and at docks these days, and for me at least, it still gives a thrill to see the grand majesty of these huge structures that will soon be whirling imperiously and using renewable energy to power our homes and reduce the carbon footprint.
MWPS has experience of and access to specialist transportation for wind turbines. If you want to know more about this, please email us with your enquiry.