Wind power transport – tall order

Construction News Product News
ALE working on a wind power project across two sites in Thailand
ALE working on a wind power project across two sites in Thailand

Wind power is continuing to gain momentum and with it the need for increased performance, which means larger and heavier components to transport. The specialized transport sector has to keep up with demand to stay in the game.

Capturing wind energy at greater heights is the key to increased performance in wind power. Wind blows with less force nearer the ground than it does as you go higher, so companies need to build turbines that are tall enough and strong enough for the job.

A company that is making sure it has the equipment it needs to offer a full product portfolio for wind transport jobs is international heavy transport and lifting specialists ALE.

Gabriel Victor, head of engineering at the ALE South Africa branch, says, “In South Africa, our fleet includes Nooteboom 8 axle single extendable trailers and 4 axle triple and quad extendable trailers. The 8 axle trailers are used to transport the tower sections as well as the nacelles. The 4 axle quad-extendable trailers are best suited for the long wind turbine blades measuring approximately 63 metres each. We also have two Martin well deck 3 axle trailers, which are specifically used for transporting large hubs. They are best suited for wind turbine projects and hubs as they are low to accommodate bridge clearances.”

ALE has also invested in Goldhofer widening multi axle trailers, which can be mechanically widened to get the maximum stability and footprint.

A recent wind power project for the Thailand branch of ALE was for the 620 kilometre transportation, crane lifting and installation of 24 x 2.5 megawatt (MW) turbines to be erected on a project site in Khao Kho, and another 30 x 2.5 MW turbines at Watabak in Thailand.

Keith Crowther, senior project manager at ALE, adds, “As the towers grow higher and the diameter of the rotors increase to maximise the yield, we are investing in the latest technology to ensure that we can meet our clients’ demands. We have ordered new cranes, trucks, blade trailers, specialist tower transporters and extendable trailers to compliment the equipment already in Thailand.”

Netherlands-based specialized transport equipment manufacturer Nooteboom has been a constant presence in the wind power transport sector. Its Super Wing Carrier is an extendable semi-trailer with adjustable gooseneck, moveable load supports, pendular axles and extension beams that can be pre-cambered. The Mega Windmill Transporter, designed for turbines and tower sections, is manoeuvrable with a 50 m length and can load and unload without a crane. New models include the Manoovr MPL semi low-loader with 10 axle lines (3 + 7) and a multidolly, and the Pendel-X Euro low-loader with the latest generation IF fixed interdolly.

Challenging loads

While companies equip themselves with machinery that can take the weight and unusual dimensions of wind turbine components, the next issue to overcome is finding viable routes to the site and being able to tackle logistical challenges, including mountainous terrain, bottlenecks, narrow turns or low bridges.

Tii Group (Scheuerle, Nicolas, Kamag and Tratec) views these logistical challenges as a chance for its equipment to shine. Christopher Rimmele, Tii spokesperson, explains, “The increasing size of wind power components has given our products a boost, especially the rotor blade adapter since we are the only manufacturer able to transport over 55 m blades on their adapters. Also, many of the easily accessible spots for wind farms are taken, increasing the need to use special equipment.”

Rimmele adds, “The increase of nacelle weight is positive for the demand for SPMT. They handle these weights without any problems. Also, modular platform trailers like the K25 or InterCombi can handle (nearly) unlimited loads. In general, the heavier and more difficult it gets, the more we are in our core competence field.”

Scheuerle provided a rotor blade adaptor and self propelled modular transporter (SPMT) for customer Felbermayr for the recent construction of a wind farm on the Curcubӑta Mountain in Romania.

The new wind power facility has a total of five Vestas V90 wind turbines. Each rotor blade is more than 40 metres long. Some rotor blades are now more than 70 m long so 40 m doesn’t appear that challenging but, in Curcubӑta, the challenges lie elsewhere.

As the wind farm is only accessible via 16 kilometres of gravel-covered mountain roads with gradients of up to twenty per cent, it was decided from the onset in favour of medium-sized installations. Bad weather and freezing rain complicated working operations.

From Goldhofer, a specialized transport equipment manufacturer in Germany, the RA 4 tower adapter was developed for very heavy and long tower segments with a maximum payload of 180 tonnes and a diameter of 6 m. The company also has equipment for carrying rotor blades, for example, the FTV 300 that can be taken through mountainous ranges as well as small towns. If, due to horizontal barriers, the transport of the blades cannot be managed, they can, via the rotor blade adapter for wind turbine haulage, be tilted upwards quickly and easily in an angle of up to 60 degrees, the company says.

To transport extra-long (more than 65 m) rotor blades, Goldhofer created the Super Lift. The fourfold extendable semitrailer allows the transport of rotor blades over difficult terrain while always staying within maximum fifth wheel loads, the manufacturer says.

The company’s wind power transport equipment portfolio also includes STZ-VL semi drop-deck low loaders, STZ-VP and STZ-P with swing axles and heavy-duty module systems and self propelled vehicles of the THP and PST series.

Another company that is at home in this sector is UK-based specialist contractor Collett & Sons. For wind power transport it uses Nooteboom Super Wing Carriers. In its consulting division for professional transport planning, Collett uses 3D Swept Path Analysis, including detailed three dimensional models of the Super Wing Carriers. This technology was used recently for phase three of the Muirhall wind farm project in South Lanarkshire, Scotland, where the company was asked to facilitate the import and delivery of eighteen components from the Port of Grangemouth. The components were for three 145 m tall GE 2.75-120 wind turbines.

Although Collett had already used this route for phase two of the project, the massive 58.7 m length of the blades – the UK’s largest onshore blades delivered, the company said – and the 63.35 m overall loaded length, meant that the teams had to plan very carefully. To ensure stability of the route, Collett used its swept path analysis reports and route access surveys before taking a test drive.

The road ahead

Forecasting the needs of customers is the key to any successful business, and never more so than in the specialized transport industry. Victor at ALE says, “Our priority is to foresee future challenges and anticipate the needs of our clients. We conducted market research to determine what equipment would be required in the future to be able to accommodate the potential in the increase of size for the new generation wind turbines.”

New from Goldhofer is ADDrive which brings together the benefits of a towed module with those of a self propelled modular transporter (SPMT). One of its key features, the company says, is that it makes transferring the cargo from a road transport vehicle to one (or several) other self propelled vehicles a thing of the past. Even for the final positioning of the cargo, reloading is no longer necessary.

Another way to secure the need for a company’s equipment in the future is to make sure that the product portfolio covers all transport needs. Belgium-based specialized transport manufacturer Faymonville has several trailers designed for wind transport, including TeleMax, VarioMax and CombiMax.

TeleMax is a flat bed semitrailer extendable up to four times to 65 m. It can carry rotor blades up to 80 m long. Marco Andres at Faymonville says, “The TeleMax with pendle axles makes it possible to increase the rear ground clearance, so that it can swivel over substantial obstacles. Another advantage on winding roads is that the pendle axles give the vehicle a left-right balance along with the greater steering angle.”

The VarioMax can transport tower segments, generators, rotor or turbine blades and hybrid towers. It consists of a front and rear bogie, based on 3 to 9 axles, removable gooseneck, different low bed variants and the option of a 1 to 3 axle free swing dolly.

CombiMax was created by Faymonville for the transport of turbines, platforms, tower segments, generators, rotor and turbine blades and is based on the idea that it can be tailored to every transport requirement, says Andres.

Andres continues, “The rising demand for wind energy has led to complex transport opportunities.” It is up to specialized transport companies to ensure they can provide the equipment needed to meet the taller wind turbines and the unusual terrain on route to site.

This feature was taken from the June issue of International Cranes and Specialized Transport magazine.