- An Introduction To Wind Turbine Blade Transport
- The Different Sizes Of Wind Turbine Blades
- How A Wind Turbine Blade Is Transported In The Usa
- Getting The Blade's Basics Down
- Choosing A Proper Company
- The Importance Of Adequately Securing The Blade And The Challenges Of A Growing Industry
- Looking Into Permits Before Transporting A Blade
- The Biggest Challenges Involved
- How Much Transporting A Blade Costs
- A Quick Recap
You might need to transport wind turbine blades if you're in the relevant business. And it's a very sensitive matter because these are worth a lot of money. It's not easy to trust any company with them.
Of course, the first step is to choose a shipping company you have total confidence in, but it's necessary to be familiar with each step, so you know what's going on every step.
Here's a list of what you need to know about wind turbine blade transport.
An Introduction to Wind Turbine Blade Transport
Wind turbines aren't new, but they've recently become highly demanded. As more wind farms are established, there's a need for experienced personnel that can safely handle transporting such sensitive cargo.
Transporting a complete wind turbine can require almost a year of planning, and it's unlikely that the process will quicken even as demand goes through the roof because of certain challenges.
America's Energy Department has been investing in wind farms heavily, with the wind energy sector investing around $143 billion into projects in the past ten years.
The demand for wind turbines is expected to grow by 10% each year, according to the Global Wind Energy Council, so we'll need better ways to transport their major components. The turbine's blades are one of the three main parts of it, and any damage means the entire thing will go to waste.
Although specialized railcars transport wind turbine cargo, part of the journey will inevitably be by road, and the blades will have to be secured to keep it safe until it reaches its destination.
The Different Sizes of Wind Turbine Blades
Any modern single wind turbine is always over 100 meters, and each component weighs several tons. The standard towers are 120 to 215 feet, with the combined turbine blades weighing 36 tons.
This brings their weight to approximately 12 tons, which is what one flatbed trailer will be transporting. Technically, if we compare this number to standard vehicles, it's around eight cars (with the average weight of each being 1.5 tons).
But it's the fact that this is one blade's weight that makes things tricky because it can't be adjusted to make it as comfortable and compact as possible. The blade's average length is 170 feet, a large expanse to fit onto one vehicle.
There are also bigger towers, with the two other ranges being those 215 to 275 meters long towers and those over 280 meters. The latter can have blades over 351 feet long, so you can imagine the amount of work needed to transport these.
The process isn't simple, even if we talk about the standard 170 feet.
How a Wind Turbine Blade is Transported in the USA
You'll need to check your wind turbine blade's pickup spot and destination. Usually, your blade will be transported from the manufacturer or a port to the wind farm, and the main work will start.
A blade is transported on a flatbed trailer with specialized equipment to hold it in place during the journey. The main issue is that while the other parts of a wind turbine, like the actual turbine, can be broken down into components, the blade needs to be transported in one piece.
The side of the blade attached to the center of the turbine is round and has a larger diameter, so it's placed near the truck's mouth. The rest of its body is placed on the flatbed trailer.
There's a challenge here because the blade's shape is tilted, and the lower end is in the air. The blade's weight must be distributed carefully, and then its tail-end is secured using special equipment to hold it in place.
The process's loading is the easiest part because planning starts long before you reach this step.
Getting the Blade's Basics Down
Before loading the turbine blade onto the flatbed trailer, you must get its dimensions. You'll need the length, diameter, and weight before contacting a shipping company to take on the job.
Ensure you do this as soon as the blade arrives at its port. If possible, you can prepare transport in advance because you can obtain the specifics from the manufacturer, whether abroad or within the country.
You'll also need to estimate when it'll arrive at the pickup destination because any delay means high storage costs. That sort of loose budgeting isn't a good idea when there are already thousands of dollars being used.
Before the blade reaches the pickup, ensure you have its dimensions, weight, and destination down. You'll also need to choose the right company because that's what makes or breaks the entire process.
The main element at stake is time and money because neither can be wasted when the actual transport process will take a long time.
Choosing a Proper Company
As mentioned, choosing the right company is perhaps the most important part because they'll be the ones ensuring your wind turbine blade reaches its destination in prime condition.
The first step is to list shipping companies that transport heavy equipment. Then, you can start contacting them to ask if they have multi-axle flatbed trailers that can take heavy loads.
The important part is if they have experience. First-time transporters might be cheaper, but you can't sacrifice this aspect because inexperienced personnel are bound to make mistakes.
Opt for a company with good reviews; you can try contacting other industry professionals and ask which carrier they've used before, so you have a first-hand account. As long as you make the correct selection, you'll be able to relax.
Ensure your carrier communicates with you regularly because a turbine blade isn't the cargo you can leave in someone else's hands. It's also why it's so important to have confidence in your chosen company.
Once you've given your company the blade's details, they'll get started on the logistics.
The Importance of Adequately Securing the Blade and the Challenges of a Growing Industry
Having a hefty, multi-axle flatbed trailer is good, but remember that a wide truck is also difficult to navigate. Again, hiring a trustworthy company is important because they'll have experienced drivers who can handle the arduous journey.
First, every sharp turn means added pressure on the tires, wheels, and suspension. And even if the turbine blade is secured carefully, there's still a weight imbalance at turns, making it hard for less-experienced drivers to keep control.
There's also the need for wider roads because trailers can't completely block roads for other drivers. There's so much planning required before a blade can be transported: the route poses many problems.
Finally, getting transport for a blade is not easy because although the wind energy sector is growing quickly, there aren't always enough trailers, power units, or qualified drivers to take them to their destination.
If you want your wind turbine blade to reach its destination on time, ensure you have a company chosen at least a year before transport so they can make room for you.
Looking into Permits Before Transporting a Blade
It goes without saying that if heavy cargo requires permits, there'll be higher standards for sensitive equipment like wind turbine blades. This step is necessary because blades fall in the superload category.
Obtaining a permit is a lengthy process, which is why there aren't many shipping companies that have them.
You'll first need adequate escort services that follow state laws. Next, the company needs to have enough financial security to have surety bonds and load dimension diagrams to show they have a clear idea of what they're transporting.
To consider variables, there also needs to be a survey of traffic patterns and seasonal factors like the weather. A company must also survey routes before it can gain proper clearance.
Finally, there's usually a test run involved to ensure the company's capable of transporting the blade without incident. This responsibility falls on the driver, so having an experienced professional is crucial.
The Biggest Challenges Involved
The main challenge is in the routes. Shipping companies need so long to iron out the logistics because there aren't many routes to accommodate such an expansive load.
Flatbed trailers are wide, with a turbine blade weighing at least 12 tons.
Sharp turns, and narrow roads must be avoided, and route surveys are conducted to find a wide path with less traffic and aren't affected by sudden or extreme weather changes like storms.
It's also inevitable to pass through small towns, especially since wind farms are removed from large metropolitans. Again, there'll be turning that drivers can't easily navigate. It's part of the reason there aren't many drivers who're in the industry.
Finally, there are also issues when it comes to crossing state borders. Each state might have different laws when it comes to superloads, and it's complicated to navigate all the rules and regulations.
How Much Transporting a Blade Costs
On average, transporting a wind turbine can cost $30,000 to $40,000 for shorter journeys. But if you have a longer route, prices can reach $100,000 to $150,000.
A large chunk of this comes from the blade. The blade can't be broken down into smaller components, so the larger expanse adds to the cost.
Some wind farms try to increase turbine power, but it has a limit. And the longer the wind turbine blade, the higher the transport cost.
The bulk of the cost comes from the time and intellect a shipping company invests into the process. There's money spent on route and traffic surveys, seasonal observations, and every other variable considered before a suitable route is decided.
A Quick Recap
You clearly know everything involved while transporting a wind turbine, but here's a quick recap.
- Before contacting a shipping company, you must have the wind turbine blade.
- Selecting a qualified and experienced shipping company is crucial to the process.
- Ensure the blade is secured carefully by the company.
- The company has to have a permit to transport heavy loads.
- The flatbed trailer's route is chosen after considering various factors.
- Transporting a wind turbine can cost around $100,000.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can Flatbed Trailers Handle the Blade's Weight?
As mentioned, wind turbine blades are much lighter than you'd expect. They're the lightest part of the wind turbine, and there won't be much pressure on the trailer during transport.
Transporting a wind turbine blade alone means you've either disassembled the structure or are moving several imported blades from a port to a wind farm. You'll need to smooth out the logistics if you have multiple shipments.
Flatbed trailers aren't delicate by any means because they're usually used to transport heavy cargo, but a wheel still weighs a few tons. But as long as good quality equipment is utilized, everything will be fine.
Is Transporting a Wind Turbine Blade Through Land Safe?
As safe as it gets. One thing's for sure, and you'll need to inform and hire a company in advance because it takes a lot of planning before a wind turbine blade is transported.
Although it's extremely delicate cargo, you can rest assured that it'll be safe if you go with the right company. As mentioned, flatbed trailers are used to transport the relatively light blade, and it needs to be handled by professionals.
A good company will ensure only trained workers do the work, and they'll take the safest routes. Just remember that it isn't something that can be rushed because there are so many factors to be wary of.
How Are Many Wind Turbine Blades Shipped to a Wind Farm?
The process is lengthy and needs many logistics before the company can implement it. You can't try to quicken any part of the process without care because it'll cost you down the line.
The weight isn't the issue; it's the size. There aren't many places that can accommodate such a large blade, so companies experienced in it even do test runs before transporting the actual blade.
It takes shipping, rail, and truck transport before every wind turbine component reaches a wind farm. A 150-megawatt farm usually requires eight ships, 140 specialized railcars, and 650 truckloads before it's completely assembled.