For the last six years, Brazil has been a veritable wind power construction site, building 8.12GW of operating assets across 322 projects since 2009, according to figures from Brazil's wind energy association, Abeeolica.
But the industry still suffers from difficulties in transporting increasingly large and heavy components, such as blades, towers, and nacelles. Depending on the location of the wind farm and the local supply chain, logistics costs can range from 5% to 10% of the total project cost, estimates Abeeolica.
"Logistics is a highly relevant issue for the development of wind farms in Brazil," confirms Elbia Gannoum, executive president of Abeeolica.
The country has about 450 projects waiting to start construction, mostly in the states of Bahia, Ceara and Rio Grande do Norte, or in the new growth regions in the north-east, such as Pernambuco, Paraiba and Piaui, quite remote locations with poor infrastructure.
Equipment size, method of transport and distance from the factory to the wind-farm site all affect the cost of logistics. For blade manufacturer Tecsis, this cost ranges from 20% to 30% of the sales price.
"There are several challenges in the logistics," said Marcelo Soares, president of Tecsis, which already delivers blades more than 63 metres long, four metres above the current average.
Complications include the overall condition and quality of the road, overpasses and bridges; bureaucracy; delays in cargo-release and checking documentation; staff shortages and a lack of specialist training for clearance of the cargo.
As a result there is a high risk of delays in delivery, unforeseen fines and disruption to the construction schedule, risking the overall project delivery, which can put the viability of the project at risk.
For Soares, shipping components is an interesting option, but with a shortage of vessels and ports capable of moving special cargo such as blades, costs are high.
Some manufacturers are moving their facilities closer to the construction to lower logistic costs. With continued effort from the manufacturers, this will improve the situation in the medium to long term, said Gannoum.
Logistics firms are also investing in new vehicles suitable for transporting wind-turbine components, especially blades, she added.
Solutions and planning
"Planning the best routes and hiring a logistics firm that meets the requirements for safe and flexible transport are some of the immediate measures that can be adopted by companies in order to work with a more efficient logistics operation," Gannoum said.
The industry is seeking discussions at government level to improve the road infrastructure. Abeeolica monitors the amount of cargo transported, compiling a weekly data report from information from major suppliers around the country, which they send to the federal highway police and justice ministry.
"The purpose is to help these institutions plan and meet the needs of the wind industry and supply chain that depend on these institutions to get their job done," Gannoum said.
Relaxing the rules
Bahia in the north-east is one of Brazil's leading wind states, with 1.1GW installed across 46 wind projects. By 2019, 230 projects commissioned in government auctions with threeand five-year completion dates are expected to be operating, reaching an installed capacity of 4GW.
But logistics has become a major issue in the construction of some of these projects. The state's approach was to relax the regulation for component transports.
An amendment passed by the transport ministry in October 2015 now allows 50-70-metre-long blades to be transported using private escorts, as long as this is supervised by the federal highway police.
Before this change, a police convoy was mandatory, making it time-consuming as well as a logistics nightmare. "This was an old request of the state government, and the change will allow savings for companies and security in transport," noted Marcus Cavalcanti, Bahia's state secretary of infrastructure.