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The irony of wind as a clean, renewable source of energy is that the modern tools used to exploit it are less than sustainable. Researchers at the
In a new study examining transportation management of the developing wind industry, researchers in the
“As many people know, wind-generated power has been used in
Tremwel and recent graduate Suzanne Ozment studied the complex process of transporting extremely heavy and large components of modern wind machines, some of which stand hundreds of feet tall and have a blade-sweep diameter equal to the length of a football field. Considering the weight and size of machine components, the authors argued that greater reliance on collaborative logistics, including communication and coordination between manufacturers and various transportation groups, will facilitate efficient and sustainable operations and ensure greater profits. Tremwel and Ozment also emphasized the importance of expanding manufacturing locations in or closer to the
“Expanding manufacturing locations closer to the
Clean and plentiful, wind has always been viewed as a viable alternative to conventional energy sources, but harnessing it has not been economically favorable. In recent years, however, technological innovations, including better machine components and overall larger units, have reduced the price per kilowatt-hour to a point at which wind is competitive with coal. And industry expansion will likely continue. Rising costs of conventional energy systems, increased concerns about global warming and climate change and governmental support of alternative energy sources propel further growth.
Despite wind power’s economic potential and environmental benefits, however, there are obstacles to growth. Technology has outpaced logistics and transportation. Moving wind machines has become a significant problem because of the excessive and unusual weight, length and shape of components, which include a tower, an in-ground base, blades and a turbine. For example, turbines, which are typically shipped as three separate components – the drive train, a generator, and a hub – all of which go inside the “nacelle” or enclosure and are assembled on site, can weigh between 22 and 90 tons, with an average weight of about 65 tons. The space required to transport a typical turbine is more than 1,900 cubic yards, roughly 13 times the volume of an ordinary tractor-trailer. Towers and bases are also exceptionally heavy. Blades are relatively lightweight but unusually long, some longer than 120 yards.
For these reasons, logistics and transportation are complex and extremely expensive. Entire projects, which can occupy hundreds of truckloads and railcars and many ships, require communication and scheduling between manufacturers and several types of transportation companies, including shipping, rail and trucking. In some cases, transportation expenses can be as high as 25 percent of the total cost of the machine component.
Tremwel and Ozment said the above constraints demand greater use of collaborative transportation management, a logistics process in which manufacturers, logistics companies, including port operations, share information, coordinate and integrate logistical functions and collaboratively design solutions to various challenges within the supply chain. The goal is to streamline the supply chain and thus reduce waste, inefficiencies and costs.
The authors focus on the
The authors also found that simple geography is another obstacle to growth of wind power in the
Tremwel and Ozment reported their findings in “Transportation Management in the Wind Industry: Problems and Solutions Facing the Shipment of Oversized Products in the Supply Chain,” which may be viewed by visiting the research center’s Web site at http://scmr.uark.edu/ .