Rail network opening up for turbine components
PPG conference guest speakers, at PLG (Professional Logistics Group), has devised a transport frame that overcomes one of the biggest hurdles for rail shipment of wind turbines and has built a new transport service on the back of the innovation. Designers at PLG of Oak Park, Illinois, created the containers with interchangeable interior plates. These accommodate blades of different sizes and makes, as well as offering different storage configurations. That versatility allows for far more rail forwarding of turbine blades arriving by ship.
Until now, ships have typically stacked blades in ways that rail cars cannot accommodate, according to PLG president Graham Brisben. “They will accommodate not only blades of different lengths and blades by different manufacturers, but also different modes that the blade may need to be shipped in,” he said. “While in the same frame a blade may be set into a ship, put onto a truck, stacked in a storage yard or fixed to a railcar.”
Trucking overshadows rail transport in the US despite the latter’s lower cost, in large part because of hitches at the ship-to rail nexus, said Susan St Germain of Seattle-based PPG member, TransGroup Worldwide Logistics. The ocean-transports pecialist packages ship-rail services with PLG. “It’s really going to bring (rail transport of turbine components) to the masses rather than just a few select manufacturers,” Ms. St Germain said. “It’s going to be a great solution to bring the rail costs into a more competitive offering.” Moving turbine components by rail can slice 35% to 50% off trucking costs, said Mr. Brisben. Few rail carriers are catering to the wind industry, or even understand it yet, but it represents a massive opportunity for the industry, said Ms. St Germain. Wind turbine shipments now account for two-thirds of Transport Logistics’ business. It was about half last year and a small minority three years ago.