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Towers of power: Wind project logistics challenging

Rob Sabo

Construction of 66 wind massive towers each taller than the Silver Legacy in downtown Reno has begun at the state’s first wind farm near Ely.

Pattern Energy of San Francisco this month began construction of its 150-megawatt Spring Valley wind farm. Erecting the gigantic towers requires extensive planning and coordination for general contractor Mortensen Construction of Minneapolis, but the task of delivering the many different components to a remote desert location presents an equally arduous task for manufacturer Siemens Energy Inc.

Pattern’s goal of building six towers per week presents major logistical challenges for Siemens, whose staff needs to coordinate delivery of seven components, each of which has to be trucked to the site on super-sized loads that require police escort.

Consider:

* The three-piece tower units are made in China and shipped to the Port of Vancouver, where they are trucked more than 1,600 miles to the job site.

* Power units and site parts are delivered from Denmark to the Port of Corpus Christi, Texas.

* Rotors are built in Fort Madison, Iowa.

* Nacelles, or generators, and gear boxes are assembled in Hutchinson, Kan.

The U.S. components are shipped via rail to Milford, Utah, and then trucked more than 100 miles to the site just outside of Ely.

The logistics involved requires a whole team of highly trained experts, says Sally Chope, Orlando-based transportation and logistics director for Siemens Energy’s wind power business in the Americas.

“It is very intense logistics,” Chope says. “It takes a lot of experts to do it, but we have a team here that puts each contract in place. Everything has to go correctly with good planning and strong implementation, and you always have to have backup plan.”

Siemens has a staffer dedicated to each component of the Spring Valley project, and team members meet daily to coordinate and ensure delivery schedules, Chope says. Each person has extensive experience in logistics.

“This is something you build up to to get into this more specialized type of job,” Chope says.

Delivery of each turbine requires seven super loads, which exceed normal highway standards based on height, length, width or weight, and require special permitting as well as standard private escorts and additional police escorts. The towers and blades are trucked in three loads each, while the nacelles require an additional load.

Siemens relies on carefully selected trucking companies to move the components. The tower bases and middle sections can be loaded and off-loaded without crane support, but the top sections require a crane.

“We do very good screening process of our carriers,” Chope says. “We have good transportation partners that we can trust in the system.”

Chope says state departments of transportation and police departments typically coordinate what time of day is best to move the oversized loads. Another challenge? Each state has different permitting and escort requirements for super-sized loads.

“When we have towers coming from Vancouver, that is a long way to go to have trucks get a top, mid and base available six times a week,” Chope says. “And in the northern areas they still are having weather issues. But we have a very strong logistics team with a lot of experience.”

The Spring Valley wind farm is expected to deliver power to the grid by mid summer.