United States

United States

Port adds a whole new dimension

The healthy crop of huge wind farms being planted throughout much of the Pacific Northwest has meant considerable hay for related industries. Last month the Port of Vancouver in Washington state, one of the largest Pacific coast ports, bought the largest crane in North America. That action helped prompt Vestas, the world's leading turbine maker, into inking a three-year pact to move its entire US volume exclusively through the city of roughly 160,000, located just across the Columbia River from Portland, Oregon.

"We expect big numbers of turbines to come through this port," says Vestas' Jens Søby. "Vestas has elected to continue working with the Port of Vancouver based on the excellent service provided on past projects, the port's ready access to road and barge transportation and, of course, the port's new heavy lift crane for efficiently moving the gigantic components."

The crane, an Austrian-made Liebherr, has arrived just in time to keep up with a recent regional boom that will include hardware for 127 turbines heading to Puget Sound Energy's 230 MW Wild Horse project in central Washington. The project, in Kittitas County, is expected online before the end of the year. The port's contribution to the operation is projected to take several months and include handling more than 1000 components--including 69 ton nacelles, 21 ton hubs and 39 metre blades.

The port has handled five other major wind farm construction projects since 2001, including three more for Vestas and accounting for 662 MW in all. But the new crane puts the port in another league. Moving the Wild Horse components has created nearly 30,000 hours of work for longshoremen and the port plans to hire more than two dozen new workers to handle the expected overall increase in traffic.

"This heavy lift crane brings a whole new dimension for cargo handling in the Columbia River, positioning Vancouver as a premier project cargo port," says Larry Paulson, the port's executive director. "We already handle several large wind turbine projects, and this additional capability will open up new markets for the region."

At least three more big wind projects are expected to pass through in each of the next two years, while initial plans for the 750 MW Shepherds Flat Wind Farm in north-central Oregon were announced earlier this year. Furthermore, the November election in Washington state includes Initiative 947, which is likely to lead to a 15% minimum requirement for the volume of renewable energy generation in Washington's electricity supply portfolio. Oregon is expected to follow suit through its state legislature in the near future.

The $3.2 million crane, mounted on 80 wheels with 20 axle sets, can rotate 360 degrees. It can lift 140 tonnes up to an 18 metre outreach and 100 tonnes at a 30.5 metre outreach. The crane has a tower height of 116.5 feet. Power comes from a 12-cylinder biodiesel-compatible engine.

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