“Marvel of engineering:” Giant wind turbine transporters find their way to Australia

Image: Acciona Energia

The 923MW MacIntyre wind farm being built in southern Queensland will be the first in Australia to use world-leading new technology to transport the project’s huge turbine blades at the site, eliminating the need for long trailers and dramatically cutting the amount of farmland and vegetation that needs to be cleared.

Spanish developer Acciona Energy says two “Blade Manipulator” trucks have arrived at the project site south of Warwick, as part of an Australian-first deployment of the technology.

The trucks use a hydraulically operated adapter mounted on a 10 axle trailer that can manipulate a single 29,000kg blade around tight corners and over vegetation by raising it on an angle to a maximum of 40 degrees.

By eliminating the need to lie the 80 metres-long turbine blades flat on massive trailers, the blade manipulators reduce the need to build large sweeping roads to accommodate them.

At MacIntyre, Acciona estimates this will reduce the amount of earthworks and soil disturbance by 250,000 cubic metres across the project’s 200km of internal roads, leaving more than 20,000 square metres of farmland and vegetation undisturbed.

Acciona Energia director of engineering and construction, Andrew Tshaikiwsky, says similar technology has been used by the company in Peru, in similar conditions to the MacIntyre wind farm, which is being built on country dominated by hills, ravines, vegetation and rock.

“These new blade transport trucks are a marvel of engineering,” said Tshaikiwsky on Monday.

“We no longer require long rigid trailers that are difficult to move around site. With this new transport method we can use much shorter transport vehicles and greatly reduce the amount of cut and fill needed on internal access roads reducing the footprint of the windfarm overall”.

The technology arrives in Australia at a time when the transport of increasingly enormous wind turbine components – including 80 metre-long blades ferried by 92 metre-long “blade-runner” trucks that, with their load included, weigh close to 100 tons – is putting Australia’s roads to the test.

Transporting blade parts, along with turbine tower parts that require a height clearance close to seven meters, is a feat of logistics that comes at a big cost to developers – and sometimes to the surrounding environment.

The $2 billion, 923MW MacIntyre wind farm is majority owned by Acciona and 30 per cent owned by Ark Energy, part of the Korea Zinc group, which will use the output to help power its Sun Metals zinc refinery near Townsville.

Tshaikiwsky says the skills learned from using the new trucks at Macintyre will help ensure a better equipped, trained and prepared workforce for Australia’s tranistion to renewables.

“As part of building the biggest wind farm in the southern hemisphere and the first ‘gigawatt-scale’ project in Australia’s energy transition we’re focused on what skills the industry may need in the future and helping to identify and bring those capabilities forward,” he said.

“Lots of projects around the country have rough terrain and we can see technology like this being deployed in the field all over Australia as the industry works to minimise the environmental footprints of projects.”

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