The way the wind blows

15 November 2019


Sotiris Kanaris talks to special transport manufacturers about how they are serving the ever-changing wind energy sector.

Renewable energy sources have significantly increased their share in global power generation over the past decade. Wind energy output, both from onshore and offshore installations, has increased so much that it can now be considered a mainstream energy source.

The Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) says that the wind energy industry is now present in more than 90 countries, 30 of which have more than 1,000MW installed, and nine more than 10,000MW.

According to GWEC figures, in 2018 there were 51.3GW of new wind energy installations, bringing the total cumulative installations up to 591GW. Despite a 4% yearon- year decrease, it is considered a strong year. Since 2014, installations have exceeded 50GW every year.

Onshore market installations amounted to 46.8GW in 2018, with China and USA adding new capacity of 21.2GW and 7.6GW respectively. The European onshore market installed 9GW, down 32% compared to 2017. Africa, the Middle East, Latin America and South-East Asia installed a combined 4.8GW during 2018.

“Part of this energy transition is the innovation of new solutions. Turbines on land and sea reaching new heights and range, hybrids and co-located projects, new forms of financing and asset ownership, offshore growth and floating wind; these are all signals that the industry can reinvent itself,” says Morten Dyrholm, chairman at GWEC.

It is true that wind turbine manufacturers have been developing and enhancing the efficiency of their products at a very fast rate. The new generation of wind turbines are larger and have longer blades. Siemens Gamesa tells Cranes Today that its first turbine was installed in 1981 by Bonus Energy (which was later purchased by Siemens) and had a hub height of 20m, and blades of 7.4m. Its latest 5.8-170 model has 83m blades, 170m rotor diameter and can reach up to 165m in height.

Inevitably the change in wind turbine sizes has changed the requirements in terms of the crane capacity needed for these jobs, but has also affected the way these turbines are transported.

Keeping up

In order to respond to this constant change, special transport manufacturers have been developing new products to meet the new demands of the industry. They are working together with the wind turbine producers as well as their clients during the development process.

Dutch trailer manufacturer Nooteboom has been serving the wind energy sector for nearly three decades. “Already in the early 90s, Nooteboom offered dedicated transport solutions for the wind energy, developed in close collaboration with manufacturers and transport companies,” says Johan van de Water, manager marketing communications at Nooteboom.

The extent of this collaboration can be reflected by the fact that one wind turbine manufacturer has used a Nooteboom low-bed as a platform to build the nacelle on, and has been using it for its internal logistics process.

Faymonville tells Cranes Today that they talk to all the manufacturers and that there is a regular exchange of data and knowledge in both directions.

Erich Traub, communications manager at Goldhofer, highlights the importance of communication with wind turbine producers and the market for product development: “We work in close cooperation with our transport partners and listen to their requirements. In addition we talk directly to the manufacturers who often consult us in the design phase of new products to optimise the logistic feasibility of their transport concepts. With this background knowledge we are able to react to the upcoming needs of the market.”

As the wind turbines have increased in size over time, there might be even bigger turbines entering the market in the future. “For us it is important that safety always comes first and as long as this can be guaranteed, we will anticipate the development of bigger and heavier wind turbines,” says van de Water.

Volker Seitz, head of global marketing at TII Group, says it is in the company’s DNA to constantly improve the product range and to adapt it to the ever-changing requirements of our wind industry customers. “In order to do so, we actually design our products in cooperation with our customers. One outcome is our brand new Scheuerle wind blade transport system jointly developed with Vestas. This system is 'future ready': it can transport current long blades (around 80m) and also future long blades of over 100m.”

Carrying Blades

The wind turbine consists of several components: wind tower, wind blade, hub, nacelle, generator, transformer. During transportation components are separated, as for some—like the blades—specialised vehicles need to be deployed.

In recent years special transport manufacturers have invested in new products in order to accommodate the expansion of blade size.

“We were encountered with new requirements of the wind industry: improve the ability to transport our longer blades over larger distances in a more flexible and a more costefficient way. One example is our new blade transport system,” says Seitz.

The wind blade transport system of Scheuerle consists of a two-axle jeep dolly with a freeturning device and a four-axle trailer. The mounting of the wind blade works according to the 'Plug and Play' principle.

“Unlike conventional systems, the Scheuerle solution only requires a few tools,” says Seitz. With a special lifting device, the wing root is picked up comfortably from the ground. The quick coupling solution consists of a root adapter and a root frame. The free-turning device is pre-assembled on the latter, and then the frame with root is coupled to the adapter.

“Compared to conventional vehicle types, the new combination has maximum manoeuvrability and guarantees a high level of safety for the load. The intelligent arrangement of joints in the bearings ensures gentle transport of the sensitive rotor blade,” he adds. With the help of a simple plug-in connection, a manufacturer-independent friction clamp can be fitted to accommodate the wind blade at the rear end.

Scheuerle has also launched the third generation wind turbine blade adapter, with a positioning angle of 70°.

Seitz says: “Our third generation blade adapter offers an improved payload moment of up to 610mT. Also, it is possible to transport even longer blades than was previously possible, whereby the adapter is mounted on platform vehicles or self-propelled vehicles. As a result, we have taken into account the development of more and more powerful wind turbines.”

He adds that Scheuerle has further simplified the pick up and loading procedure of the blade. “Due to an even more flexible angle of inclination of the quick-release plate, the adapter and blade can be easily and quickly bolted to the frame from the inside. In the advanced generation, it is also possible to attach the drawbar element directly to the wind turbine blade adapter. This has therefore created the opportunity to flexibly assemble mechanically steered combinations.”

For transporting blades, Nooteboom started with a double-extendible Teletrailer, which evolved to the triple- and quadruple-extendible Telestep, and finally to the Super Wing Carrier.

The Super Wing Carrier is specially-designed to transport extremely long windmill rotor blades, 50m long or longer. Its load floor is quadruple extendible, from around 18m up to around 64m, which makes it possible to transport rotor blades measuring up to approximately 70m.

It is equipped with pendle axles providing a steering angle of 60°, and a hydraulic gooseneck, adjustable in height with 82cm stroke to create extra ground clearance at the front of the vehicle. “These features offer an extremely high ground clearance to overcome obstacles. In addition, the special blade support offers the possibility to adjust the wheelbase without touching the load,” van de Water says.

Goldhofer’s Ventum gives haulage companies a fivefold telescopic semitrailer with a maximum length of 72m. In combination with the BladeX blade tip lift, the manufacturer says it constitutes a complete system that permits higher travel speeds even when carrying extremely long blades, and it also avoids timeconsuming vehicle changes.

Traub adds that when these products are used together, they enable hauliers to avoid lengthy and costly detours and time-consuming removal of road furniture on challenging routes. The rotor blade tip frame can be raised up to 10m above the ground to avoid obstacles like trees, houses, traffic lights and signs; while the length of the vehicle can be reduced for easier negotiation of tight bends and roundabouts. “That means there may be no need to offload the rotor blade at critical points on the route. A second vehicle and crane are thus superfluous, additional labour costs are avoided and the whole operation can be completed faster,” Traub says.

If the blade manufacturer allows the blades to be transported freely suspended by a dolly system, the Goldhofer BladeS can be used. With the BladeS, Goldhofer is pursuing a minimalistic system approach, in which the cargo itself has a structural function within the configuration. At the back of the tractor is a free-turning device, on which the lower end of the turbine blade is mounted while the top end is placed on a trailing dolly and clamped between two precisely shaped plastic holders.

Both above mentioned solutions are mainly for long distance transport.

If the transport route´s "last mile" is too difficult for semitrailers and dollies, the only solution is a blade lifter to reach the wind park. “The FTV 550, for example, can handle even the longest rotor blades without any problems, as already demonstrated by hundreds of such transport operations,” Traub says.

At Bauma, Goldhofer exhibited the FTV 550, mounted on an ALE heavy-duty module, and delivered to the Italian heavy haulier Molisana. The company already has an FTV 300 in its fleet.

“As extremely flexible transport devices, our FTVs can be used to transport rotor blades in both trailered and self-propelled operation. The mounted rotor blade can be rotated freely around its own axis and raised up to an angle of 60°,” says Traub. “As a result, trees, buildings and tight bends are no longer an obstacle. Since the FTV 300 and FTV 550 can be set up and removed without the use of a crane, the desired configuration can be got ready at relatively short notice, requiring less planning, labour and financial resources.”

For the transportation of blades Faymonville offers the TeleMax platform trailer and the bladelifter BladeMax650.

Due to its extending loading platform, the TeleMax flatbed semi-trailer is ideally suited for the transport of particularly long or bulky loads. “Its lightweight design, its greater steering angle and the low loading platform height additionally guarantees optimum manoeuvrability with the highest possible payload,” says Faymonville.

The TeleMAX flatbed trailer for wind blade transport has pendle-axles and is equipped with hydraulic suspension.

With a load capacity of 650mT, Faymonville says the BladeMax650 can transport the latest mega wind turbine blades safely and efficiently in wooded or built-up areas, in mountainous regions or in narrow streets.

Rotor blades can be picked up, raised up to an angle of 84°, swivelled and rotated by 360° around their own axis using this adapter, which is mounted on a self-propelled vehicle or between modular axle lines. A third vertical rotary axis can even be integrated as an option, additionally enabling a lateral swivel angle of 20°.

A unique feature of the BladeMax is its patented tilt kinematics. “Thanks to this sophisticated levering device, the position of the centre of gravity remains considerably more stable than with conventional devices when the blade is moved from the vertical to the horizontal position. In addition, the overall height of the construction remains quite low due to this method,” Faymonville explains. Greater handling stability is offered by the patented stability control system.

Tower and Components

The nacelle houses the main technical parts of the turbine— including the gene=rator gearbox, drive train and brake assembly— and is placed atop of the tower. Goldhofer says that for the transportation of onshore nacelles, nearly the full range of Goldhofer semi-trailers can be used, depending on the dimensions and weight of the unit.

For tower sections of bigger diameter, modular trailers together with Goldhofer tower adapters RA 2, RA 3 and RA 4 are used; they cover the payload range from 60 to 180t. Tower segments with smaller diameters are transported by double extendible semi-trailers.

For the transportation of nacelles, hubs and transformers, TII Group offers the Scheuerle EuroCompact and UltralightCombi.

EuroCompact is a semi-modular low-bed semi-trailer, which is available from 1+3 to 4+6 axles and has a technical axle load up to 14t.

UltralightCombi is a modular platform vehicle that can be combined with other models in the Combi series and TII says it has a favourable payload/dead weight ratio. It is available from two to five-axle modules. The low-bed combination can carry payloads up to 135t, while the trailer combination up to 150t. For the transportation of the wind towers, the UltralightCombi can be used with TII’s WT40/WT50 Wind Tower adapters.

The Nooteboom products used for the transportation of nacelles are the EURO-PX Lowloader and the Manoovr semi lowloader. “These could go up to a 3-bed- 6 euro-PX lowloader or even a ten axle line Manoovr semi lowloader,” says van de Water. He adds that the equipment used for the transportation of tower segments depends on which part of the tower pieces has to be transported. “In principle it is important that the combination height is such that it will fit under bridges. This height depends on the country, for example in France height is less of a problem than Germany. The Nooteboom Mega Windmill Transporter offers the best possibilities to transport huge and heavy tower pieces, because ground clearance can be reduced to absolute minimum.”

The Mega Windmill Transporter can be used in different configurations, for instance with a two-axle, three-axle or four-axle jeep dolly at the front combined with a five or six-axle module or a seven-axle self-tracking dolly at the rear. Depending on the diameter of the tower section, the Liftad-100 has a lifting capacity of 100t and a lifting height of 1,000mm.

Faymonville’s products used for the transportation of nacelles and tower segments are the MegaMax low-bed trailers, VarioMax low-bed trailers and CombiMax modular principle.

The MegaMax is a low-bed trailer designed for heavy duty and special transports. This trailer is based one-five axles and can be fitted with a one-three axle dolly.

VarioMax is a particularly adaptable and versatile series of semi-trailers, consisting of a front and rear bogie, based on four to nine axles. Due to the use of lighter 17.5in pendle axles, the weight and total truck length of the VarioMax have also been further reduced. It is equipped with hydraulic suspension.

The CombiMax is a low loader concept, the idea of which is based on the variety of combinations with standardised components. The principles of modularity and flexibility are applied to the trailers and step frame semi-trailers for medium to heavy payloads of between 50t and 250t.

Demand

Van de Water says the wind energy segment is very important to Nooteboom, as the company has a high market share in transport solutions for this sector.

The company recently received an order for six Super Wing Carriers to Portuguese company LASO Transporters, which will now have 18 units of this vehicle model in its fleet. Another recent order is from Finnish transport company Silvasti, which has placed an order for more than ten vehicles including Super Wing Carrier, Quatro Telesteps and six-axle Manoovr semi low-loaders.

Talking about the market for heavy transport equipment for the wind energy, van de Water says: “At this moment there are a lot of new wind turbines being installed in the northern and southern part of Europe. We also see a trend to repower existing wind turbine installations, which is expected to grow considerably in the coming years. At the moment the market is quite stable, but can change rapidly due to permissions for wind sites. Our customers specialised in wind turbine transport operate internationally, so they are less depended on a specific country.”

Goldhofer’s Traub is also optimistic about the future demand for special transport for this application. “Due to climate change, the design and construction of wind power plants is being promoted all over the world. Asian countries in particular have been investing heavily in wind power. Moreover sustainable energy solutions are worldwide in focus and approached.

“Within Europe, we see a lot of activity in Sweden and France. Back on the market are Greece, Italy, Spain and surprisingly Ukraine. Germany however is lagging behind due to the present permission procedure, but it is expected that by 2021 the number of installations is going to pick up significantly.”

GWEC expects the onshore market to install upwards of 50 GW per year until 2023. It anticipates mature markets in Asia, Europe and North America to continue with stable volumes, while growth to be generated from developing wind energy markets in Africa, Middle East, Latin America and South-East Asia. 

Using data from the Global Wind Energy Council's 'Global Wind Report 2018', we have illustrated the GW capacity of new onshore wind installations over the last decade. The line graph shows the historic development of total onshore wind installations, which according to GWEC stood at 568GW at the end of 2018.
Faymonville has several transport solutions within its range to move wind tower segments.
Goldhofer FTV 300 in operation on the last distance to the windmill.
Nooteboom’s Super Wing Carrier is speciallydesigned to transport extremely long windmill rotor blades, 50m long or longer.
The new Scheuerle rotor blade transport system.