Blades slicing through mountains

8 August 2019

To move more than 900 wind farm components over 200km through Chile, ALE had to carefully develop a route, including cutting into a mountain.

Chile’s Energy Route 2018–2022 is an initiative that hopes to bring together stakeholders in the renewable industry. Following its announcement, Spain’s Acciona was contracted to build four new renewable energy projects in Chile, adding 400 megawatts (MW) across two solar farms and two wind farms.

One of these is the San Gabriel wind farm, located in the municipality of Renaico in the region of La Araucania. Once completed, San Gabriel will be home to 61 wind turbines, adding 183MW of renewable energy to the grid, at an investment of $300m.

To transport the components, the contractor turned to ALE. In total, there were 976 components to be moved, including tower sections, hubs, nacelles and blades.

ALE was tasked with unloading the components from ships arriving into Lirquen Port near the city of Concepcion. After receiving the components, they had to be transported some 230km near to the town of Renaico.

The challenge ALE faced was navigating the route from the port to the windfarm site. The sheer size, weight and volume of components meant that the route had to be carefully surveyed and planned. Each nacelle weighed 105t and each blade weighed 18t with a length of 65m, making the components difficult to transport on conventional trailers and under standard bridge heights.

To solve this problem, ALE surveyed the route using manual measurements as well as topographical and software simulations using Autocad and Autoturn to evaluate tight bends.

To transport the blades, ALE worked with local authorities to obtain the relevant permits, but also to make adjustments to the route, such as cutting into part of a mountain to achieve the necessary turn radius and also temporarily shutting down a hydro power station to relocate the transmission line. These subcontracting works were coordinated by ALE, in order to make all the upgrades to the route in the time-scale necessary to achieve the schedule of the project.

The equipment ALE used ranged from 24 axle lines, three blade trailers, two low boys and five expandable trailers to accommodate the tower sections.

ALE was able to turnaround the project within three months of being appointed. This was made possible thanks to ALE’s experience of delivering parts to the most remote locations around the world. Not only does this improve the cost per kWh of transporting components, it is vital to getting renewable energy projects up and running, said the company.

ALE was contracted to move 976 components from Lirquen Port to Renaico, 230km away