Contributed by Mihir Patel, Logisticus Vice President
One thing is for sure in 2024 and beyond: the demand for wind energy is growing and it will continue to significantly grow in the coming years. Therefore, wind turbine generator installations are at an all-time high as the public and private sectors jump at the chance to accomplish social and governance goals to please shareholders and also meet governmental requirements. The Energy Information Administration is predicting U.S. wind capacity will increase by 7 GW by the end of 2024.
Have you ever wondered how these giant wind turbine generators get installed? Or, even further, how do the massive turbines make it from point A to point B? Since blades cannot be folded or bent once built, it creates many obstacles and limitations on the routes trailers must take and the radius of their turns. To give you a picture of how enormous a wind turbine blade can actually be, imagine driving something the length of a football field on a trailer. A typical single blade of a wind turbine generator can weigh close to 36 tons. As you can imagine, the transportation of a wind turbine starts long before the actual turbine makes it on the road, with a team of logistics professionals.
The team at Logisticus in Greenville, S.C. recently accomplished one of their most intricate moves to date, hauling a giant wind turbine across the country. Logisiticus’ project team consisted of over 40 members including planners, engineers, CAD designers, field operatives, and project managers. The transport project was to move a blade that was 203 feet long from the middle of Nebraska all the way to Arizona.
Logisticus’ first piece of advice in tackling a feat like this is: planning, planning, and even more planning. First: meet with Departments of Transportation (DOT) along the route, since obtaining DOT permits takes weeks. However, if the team starts to apply for permits too early, routes can go down due to DOT construction along the route. Second, relationships with DOT contracts are of prime importance. It is crucial to ensure all risks in the transport are mitigated and communicated actively throughout the trip.
In this blade’s specific journey, there was an original route set that went from Nebraska through Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and New Mexico and ended in Arizona. As the team worked through permitting, they faced numerous DOT construction projects and obstacles through New Mexico, Texas, and Oklahoma due to IRA bill funding. Finally, a totally different route was set and ready to go: Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona- which shockingly went over the Rockies.
The hardest part of the journey is locating and using the routes available to accommodate an oversized load like a blade. Time, patience, and safety are of extreme importance. This blade’s journey became interesting when it got to New Mexico: There was a lot of DOT construction going on, which required more detours than the team would have liked. The planners found a local route but needed to work with a Native American tribe to obtain approval to travel on their roads. This was a unique step in the project, as the U.S. DOT does not apply to tribal land. In addition, they have their own laws and regulations which added to the complexity of the move over their land.
In the end, seven days later, the blade made it to its owner and Logisticus celebrated a project successfully completed. A wind turbine’s journey across the U.S. can certainly take a lot of turns, but in the end, making it to the final destination safely is the most important. Having a dedicated group of logistics professionals who have key contacts in the industry and lots of knowledge, makes the move seamless throughout each step.