More Efficient Transportation for New Wind Turbine Blades

Flatbed Semitrailer for Blades

Manufacturers of wind turbine and components are looking for more efficient transportation for their longer and heavier multi megawatt turbine structures. P. P. Basistha reports.

Extendable trailer for wind mill blade a
Wind turbine manufacturers are setting up taller wind farms through erection of towers of hub heights ranging between 90 to 120 meters. Higher towers will mean speedier winds for producing more power. The hub heights of towers during the last seven to eight years went up from 30 to 50 meters, and now by 72-80-90-100-108 and 120 meters. With the increment in tower heights, the diameters are now between 3.8 to 5.4 meters, while the nacelles are also heavier at 72.3 to 106 tons. As a result, power generation capacity of the mills has gone up from 250 kw to 1.5 to 2, 2.1 and 2.5 mw.

One of the major components for higher efficiency of the turbines for generating higher power are the blades, which have also undergone a design transformation. This calls for more advanced transportation solutions without causing any damages, especially to the end of the blade sections.

Mr. Bipin Lunavia, Chief Technical Officer, Enercon, explains, “The recent transportation requirement is to move blades of 50-60 meters. With the increasing of hub heights, there is a likelihood that the length of the blades may go up to 90 meters. This will mean large, heavy and expensive super cargo loads, requiring specialized transportation arrangements. Such blade loads can be transported by using a combination of extendable trailers and telescopic trailers with rotor blade adapters, as done in European countries.”

The Evolution Phase & Future

During early 2000 when sub 1 mw wind turbine wind installation took root in India, the wind turbine components transportation was not challenging. The blades were mounted on conventional 70 feet flat bed mechanized trailer coupled with Tata or Ashok Leyland less powered prime mover across the country. These rigid axle mechanical trailers were more than sufficient to cart blades at higher gradients to install the wind turbines. However, over the last two decades, blade size and length have increased phenomenally from 15 meters to 16 meters. Similarly, the mechanical flat bed trailers loading platform length has increased to enable transportation of the lengthier blades. With the coming of the 2014 flat bed mechanical trailers, the length has been extended to 115 feet for transportation of the 40 meters plus blades. These mechanical trailers, which have served the industry all these past years, will soon be phased out from regular use due to their limited utility.

Mr. Rajesh Batta, Manager, Marketing, VMT Industries Pvt Ltd, says, “The recent demand for transporting blades is through extendable trailers and hydraulic axles. The benefit that the wind turbine industry is getting by transporting two rotor blades on one telescopic trailer is enormous. The cost of hiring a telescopic trailer is less per blade transportation, the requirement of skilled manpower is modest, and the turning radius required at the wind farm sites is also minimal. Furthermore, the transit time taken is less than that of mechanical trailers. Extendable trailers also have the latest features with steering axles. We are well positioned to offer the required transportation to the wind turbine industry through our wide range of trailers, which can also be customized given our engineering expertise.”

Price Sensitivity

While it is commendable that the blades have found more efficient means of transport, however, critical transportation of rotor blade adapters vertically at shorter radius has not made much headway in India. The reason is the prohibitive cost, as the market remains price sensitive. To address this cost concern, transport manufacturers will have to look for localization of their products, along with the right product service and support.

Recent initiatives taken by prime mover manufacturers like Ashok Leyland, Tata, Man Trucks, and Volvo Eicher through the launch of their Pro Series trucks, Volvo FH 520 for hauling the trailers, also by TII to manufacture the hydraulic trailers locally, and the improvisations being carried out by VMT in the trailers, are positive moves that will impact the industry favourably.

Lifting & Specialized Transport - April 2017

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