BNSF Logistics announced the successful testing of their new innovative fixtures developed to move wind turbine blades more efficiently via rail and ship. The Blade Runner service is a universal fixture designed for rail and ocean transport to optimize movement of wind components between any two points in the world.
With the ratio of logistics costs for Wind projects running at nearly 2X other industries, and with strong interest from manufacturers, developers and OEMs seeking options for handling increasingly longer blades, BNSF Logistics teamed up with Energo, an engineering and design company with a long history in the Wind sector. Together, they have developed transport fixtures that will greatly increase efficiency and drive down logistics costs in moving wind components. The fixtures (patent pending) and handling solutions that have been developed will benefit customers for both international and U.S. domestic moves. Using the same technology for ocean, rail, truck and storage will allow blades to move without the need for attached fixtures, which have historically been both expensive and difficult to manage.
“The Wind Energy sector has depended on decade old methods that are increasingly irrelevant as global sourcing and the size of blades increase,” said Ray Greer, BNSF Logistics’ President. “Our universal fixtures for both ship and rail transport modernizes the wind logistics industry and will unshackle current logistics constraints facing the industry, getting the wind industry closer to that critical self-sustaining cost level.”
The universal rail fixtures are designed to handle blades of all sizes including increasingly longer blades inside the clearance windows required, making rail a viable option versus truck. This is a critical development as truck capacity is projected to be a real challenge as wind projects accelerate in 2015 and beyond. Multiple rail tests were conducted on 45+ meter wind blades at the Port of Corpus Christi. The results showed a 35% improvement of clearance envelope making rail a viable mode choice for almost any North American destination. Subsequent longer route tests at speed demonstrated superior ride quality with less stress and G-forces borne by the blades
when compared to current technologies.
The ocean blade stowage design will allow BNSF Logistics to significantly increase the number of blades that are carried per ship. Testing for the ocean bulk ship blade stowage was done at the Port of Houston. A land based test of the ocean system demonstrated the nesting capability, which will allow for improved load factor for international transport. BNSF Logistics expects the new system to improve stowage rates by a minimum of 25% over existing configurations. Additional efficiencies and direct cost reductions have been validated and details shared with potential customers under confidentiality agreements.
A number of the major players in the Wind Energy sector have been actively involved in the testing process and feedback has been extremely positive. John Billingsley, CEO of Tri Global Energy commented, “We are very encouraged by the investment and innovations BNSF Logistics is bringing to the Wind Energy sector. Reducing all-in project building costs is an essential goal in the highly competitive electric utility power generation industry. Reducing logistics costs in our wind energy projects by using BNSF Logistics’ new shipping solutions will have a very meaningful impact on achieving that goal.” Utilization of the new fixture designs is expected to begin in the second quarter of 2015 and will ramp up as quickly as manufacturing of the fixtures will allow. The impact on costs and efficiency will be realized immediately and could make previously unattractive areas more viable for wind project development.