Moving giant blades requires massive teamwork, attention to detail
It was a bit like threading a needle – only some of the needles were nearly a football field long.
In the last few months, several wind turbine blades, from 219’ – 275’ in length, had to get to Wasco, about 10 miles south of Biggs Junction on the Columbia River. The “eye” they had to move through included Interstate 84, U.S. 97, and Oregon Route 206 – all completely within the Oregon Department of Transportation’s District 9. No small effort any way you look at it.
The blades are part of The Golden Hills wind turbine project, which will cover a wide swath of Sherman County land north and northeast of Moro. Altogether they’re destined to be part of a 51-tower project; 40 Vestas towers and 11 GE towers.
The turbine blade deliveries began in mid-August and finished up at the end of October. Including the time spent on planning, the project has already taken well over a year, with scheduled completion next year in December.
Some of the gigantic blades originated from the Port of Vancouver, which means they had to travel through three ODOT districts to get to their destination. Others came from Garden City, Kan. – making their way through four ODOT districts. These district staff members are the ones that know what intersections, roadways and bridges can handle a 275-foot load… and which ones can’t.
Those involved with this particular move included a dozen or more ODOT employees, including ones Maintenance, the Region 4 Bend Headquarters, and Commerce and Compliance; two wind tower manufacturers; three logistics companies; three prime contractors; four delivery companies (from the U.S. and Canada); and two Oregon traffic control companies.
The moves also required six miscellaneous permits for improving turn radii in state right of way, which included:
- Earthwork – mostly adding grading/fill and compacting.
- Removing Signs and guardrail.
- Relocating drainage inlets/extending culverts, with help from the ODOT Bend/Region Tech Center.
- Traffic control for construction phase. (This included a lot of review work by Region 4 Traffic section and even more monitoring by District 9.)
In total, there were 787 Superload permits, with 1,040 total permits issued through Commerce and Compliance. Several loads went to two different temporary yards within District 9, which required subsequent permits. Overall, the moves included extensive traffic control plans with signal shutoffs, rolling slowdowns and even a detour through private property!
Keeping freight traffic moving and supporting the state’s economy are two key elements of ODOT’s priority of building and maintaining a modern transportation system. This priority combines with equity and sufficient and reliable funding to form the basis for the agency’s 2021-2023 Strategic Action Plan.
All of this hard work and detailed coordination will produce towers which will provide energy that will benefit the entire Pacific Northwest while supporting local, state and regional economies – a worthy team effort.