Paving the road to wind project sites

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Most people don’t associate road construction with a wind turbine project however it is a key factor in transporting the equipment to the project site, maneuvering components during the construction phase, and servicing the turbines once production begins. These photos were taken on the same corner of a rural road near the Gundersen Envision Lewiston, MN, wind project site.

As you can see from the photo on the right, commercial turbine tower sections and blades are very long and require special trailers to haul them over the road. Some components, such as the gear box and rotor hub may not be as long but are extremely heavy. Properly transporting these large pieces of equipment will often require a turning radius at intersections to be constructed so the truck and trailer can negotiate a corner.

Routes are predetermined months in advance of the construction project. State Department of Transportation permits are required as well as local township permits and possibly Department of Natural Resource permits. Local police may be required to help safely control traffic challenges and often, moves may be made at night when traffic congestion is less of an issue. A seasoned wind turbine manufacturer and your project developer should have experience managing these permits and the logistics required to transport the necessary equipment to the project site.

Townships may also require the project owner to secure a road bond to cover any potential damages that may occur to local roads during the construction of the project.  At this particular intersection, excavation was required as well as backfill, culvert, and crushed gravel. In this case, it was necessary to develop a plan to prevent soil erosion and adjust signage at the intersection. Once all of the equipment was on site, the road construction crew restored the intersection back to its original condition and removed the temporary road materials. Occasionally, it may also be necessary to move power lines or other utilities in the location. These are all factors that are considered in planning an appropriate route and minimizing costs to the project.

The turbine site also requires road building. Each turbine needs an access road to move cranes and other service equipment to the turbine. A crane pad, that can support a massive crane that will lift the components of the turbine during erection, must be placed next to each turbine. Additionally, a lay down area for storing the components during the construction is needed, in addition to space for construction trailers, crew vehicles, etc. Once the turbines are erected and the large crane moves offsite, the lay down area, crane pad, and vehicle parking areas are removed and the land restored to its original state.

In most cases, this work is taking place on rural, agricultural property. The property owner is typically reimbursed for crop losses during the construction process on a per acre basis and appropriate crop pricing. In addition, most land lease agreements for turbine sites compensate the land owner for the access road acreage that must remain to service the turbines during production.

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