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Shipping wind turbines is not a breeze (freightwaves.com)
99 points by watchdogtimer 55 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 40 comments

This is a good read. The difficulty of transporting large wind components over land is one reason that onshore wind turbines have lower maximum capacities vs. offshore turbines. The largest onshore turbine is 5.3 megawatts [1] while the largest offshore turbine is 9.5 megawatts [2]. Transporting super-large components by sea is easier -- no tunnels, bridges, or winding roads to worry about.

Very tall turbines tend to improve capacity factor and project economics by tapping steadier winds found further away from the ground. For onshore projects, at least, that benefit is in tension with the more difficult transport and assembly logistics noted in this article.

Solar has the logistics edge in that all of the components for a solar farm are much smaller and weigh less. Even the largest individual solar modules are under 40 kilograms each. Racking systems are also assembled out of smaller pieces. No oversized loads need to be transported to the solar farm site. There are more truckloads of components for a 400 megawatt solar farm vs. a 400 kilowatt farm, but the individual components and trucks need be no larger.

[1] https://www.genewsroom.com/press-releases/ges-largest-onshor...

[2] https://en.wind-turbine-models.com/turbines/1605-mhi-vestas-...

Vestas is heavily marketing their 5.6 MW platform now, and at least sending preliminary sales and design information to clients. We're probably a couple of years out from installing any that big though.

The real surprise is how fast capacity has jumped. We went through a period of rapid size increase, then a decade plus plateau around the 2 MW mark, and now a very rapid rise to 4+ MW onshore.

It's true we get to better winds higher up, but we also see some significant cost advantages related to building fewer turbine foundations, needing to erect fewer individual units and having relatively fewer miles of site road and collection to achieve the same production.

Right, but the Haliade-X is still under development. It's supposed to be available in 2021. I linked to the largest turbine model I knew of that is already in commercial service.

Blades for this turbine are being manufactured in Cherbourg, France and are 107 meters long. See https://www.linkedin.com/posts/lm-wind-power_haliadex-weknow...

Your link [2] says it can be used onshore :-)

It is an insanely awesomely large machine too. 66,000 volts! Wow, just wow.

the generator in the wind turbine is not generating at 66 kV. There is a transformer in the base of the turbine to step the voltage up to 66 kV. A 10 MW generator is typically at 6.9 kV, although could be up to 13.8 kV.

Ha, you're right. But I have never heard of an onshore wind farm built using these -- only offshore projects.

In NL we have a whole bunch of those large Enercon units near the village of Urk. Well worth a stop if you're ever on A6, it is an amazing sight especially up close.

Added to my list of places to stop next time I'm on the continent, thanks!

Here is a sample image:


And if you do make it here then please let me know and I'll be happy to buy you dinner.

> The largest onshore turbine is 5.3 megawatts [1]

Enercon wants a word with you:


And Vestas has an even larger one.

Given the huge promise of terrestrial wind farms, it seems like someone is right now figuring out a way to either a) fabricate them on-site, or b) fly the parts in via drone or dirigible.

GE is definitely working on this. A friend of mine was telling me they have pretty elaborate setups for welding or connecting the pieces of the blades while out in the field.

I have driven alongside trucks carrying single turbine blades on midwest highways many times and I can tell you many people would be very uncomfortable seeing something even larger flying across the countryside.

Once it's 200m up in the air it doesn't look so big anymore, especially if it's not right above roads.

Up close and personal with a large windturbine they look plenty big to me. 2/3rd of the Eiffel tower but moving.

flying heavy components in a location where the winds are strong enough for wind power generation might pose some exciting challenges.

Both seem pretty challenging.

Building "on-site" is tough because the "sites" are by definition scattered around, often in the countrysite with little infrastructure. On one site you only have a handful of turbines to install.

Flying large objects is challenging. There have been attempts to transport large cargo with zeppelins, but it's more of a failure story of German industry politics [1].

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CargoLifter

Came here to say the same thing--Looks like they're doing enough business to consider blimps.

Solar might not be such a dream clean energy https://twitter.com/datarade/status/1101744267444142080

I don't know the chemistry behind it, but it's interesting to hear the counter argument that it will actually create more polution to build a solar panel relative to its lifetime. Would love to read more.

He's mostly correct up until point 9. Then he goes off the rails. I don't know where he got the idea that silicon manufacturers dispose of silicon tetrachloride in oil wells. I just searched "silicon tetrachloride" "oil well" and he seems to be the only person on the Web advancing that theory.

It sounds like a somewhat garbled retelling of this widely reported story from 2008 about unscrupulous Chinese manufacturers dumping silicon tetrachloride:

"Some Chinese “clean energy” companies produce a toxic hazard"


Facilities in South Korea, Japan, Germany, and the United States purify silicon by the same process and do not dump silicon tetrachloride. They recycle silicon tetrachloride into more trichlorosilane, or turn it into other salable silicon derivatives. Dumping silicon tetrachloride on the ground is no more the norm in the silicon industry than adding melamine to milk is the norm in the dairy industry.

EDIT: Here's a products page from Mitsubishi Polysilicon, which manufactures high purity silicon in the USA. They sell the purified silicon tetrachloride for making fiber optics:


Building anything will create pollution, that solar does too is not a surprise as it is merely “green” compared to alternatives.

The point I wrote is not merely that building solar creates pollution, but relative to its lifetime it may do more harm than good – in its current state of the art. In other words, a lot of dirty to get a little clean.

The point is that you believe something that is completely implausible because a random guy posted a rant on twitter without any sources.

How would I know it's "completely implausible"? Should I just blindly shut out any dissenting voices?

Y'all may be interested in http://keystonetowersystems.com/

They're a small company that uses a neat system to manufacture the towers onsite, cutting down the shipping for it.

(Disclosure -- they're friends of mine, but I have no direct experience with them)

Someone on the site asks about helicopters and I wonder the same thing. I know helicopters are hellishly expensive to use, but they are used occasionally - eg for ski lifts.

Helicopter Installs Ski Lift Towers at a Private Ski Club: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=83MPTPNXhTs

>The largest wind turbines can weigh up to 700,000 pounds fully assembled and typically require around 10 loads to transport.

so, average speaking the components are on the scale of 35t/each. The current helicopters top at about 20t payload, so could be used only for some smaller parts. That one https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mil_V-12 could have done more jobs here. Or it is a new and shiny market for airships (or some kind of hybrid with airship)

Watching wind turbines fail on youtube is kind of entertaining. Some of the videos are really quite spectacular.

I wonder if the same technology used to make folder fight jet wings ( so they can store more on an aircraft carrier) could be applied here?

You end up with a weight and complexity hit for something that is essentially a single-use feature.

The show Outback Truckers did a little segment when one of the drivers had to deliver one https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TiRkiNh7VK0

Stupid question but is there a market for lots of smaller wind turbines? What’s the efficiency like vs. one big turbine? Is there something like a solar farm with modular panels, but for wind?

As I understand it the power is relative to the square of the diameter of the blades, so bigger is (nonlinearly) better. http://xn--drmstrre-64ad.dk/wp-content/wind/miller/windpower...

On their diagram 40m = 500kW, 80m = 2500kW. So the doubling of diameter is five-fold increase in power. That’s even more than squared.

Great link, thank you.

This has a strong propaganda smell - he fails to mention the use of fossil fuels in production of nuclear fuel; he also fails to mention the use of concrete and steel in the construction of nuclear power plants.

I wish you could magically get power out of a lump of radioactive metal that you found lying on the surface of the ground, in the real world you have to build infrastructure to harness it.

He shows wind energy has horrifically low energy density. He also shows the immense infrastructure required for one wind turbine.

A comparison with nuclear is left as an exercise for the viewer. Perhaps it is made explicit in the full video.

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