Wind energy contracts fill Vanguard's sails

Van Stadens Wind Farm 3MW Sinovel

Wind energy contracts fill Vanguard’s sails

With the roll-out of wind energy projects as part of the Department of Energy’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REIPPPP), international heavy-lift and plant relocation specialist engineering firm, Vanguard has been active on wind farm sites in the Western Cape, the Eastern Cape and the Northern Cape.

This includes the port discharge, transportation, lifting and assembly of over 80 turbines at several wind energy projects around South Africa.

The large scale of the turbine components requires specialised expertise and equipment to transport and install. The towers for the turbines on average measure over four metres in diameter at their base and 80-90 metres tall – depending on the model and generating capacity – requiring them to be transported in three segments of about 30 metres each.

The nacelle with the generator, gearbox, drive train and brake assembly typically weighs in excess of 100 tonnes, while the hub is some 40 tonnes and the turbine blades – three per turbine – are about 55 metres in length. After the tower segments are assembled on site, the nacelle components, the hub and the blades are then lifted to the top of the tower and installed by expert technical teams.

Van Staden’s Wind farm, Port Elizabeth, Port Elizabeth

In this turnkey project, Vanguard transported and erected nine 3 MW Sinovel wind turbines for Metrowinds’ R550 million Van Stadens wind farm, 30 km west of the windy city of Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape. For this, Vanguard were responsible for the discharge, storage and transport of nine nacelles, 27 blades and nine towers from the Port of Ngqura to the site 57 km away, as well as the mechanical and electrical installation of the turbines at the site.

Transportation of the 56,5-meter blades and the 120-tonne nacelles was achieved through Vanguard’s custom fleet of heavy-capacity, multi-axle trailers. The company also employed two sets of specially imported tower clamp attachments to lower the overall height of the load; this allowed it to transport the 4,7-metre-diameter tower sections along routes which would not have been possible with standard trailers.

With its decades of expertise, Vanguard lifted the 120-tonne nacelles to a height of 90 metres and positioned them to be secured to their respective towers. Despite challenging weather conditions, the goal of erecting one complete turbine per week was achieved.

Grassridge, Port Elizabeth

At the R1,2 billion Grassridge wind farm, also near Port Elizabeth, Vanguard provided the craning solution for 20 Vestas V112 turbines, each with a 3 MW generating capacity, using its specialised GTK1100 crane – currently the only one of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere.

Once the base of the turbine tower is secured on its foundation, Vanguard’s GTK1100 crane and support crane are positioned to ‘top and tail’ the two top tower sections of each turbine. The remaining components of the turbine are then lifted and positioned, which includes the nacelle, hub and three 55 meter turbine blades.

Construction on the site – located at cement producer PPC’s Grassridge quarry 12km north of Motherwell – began in October last year, and the first turbines are expected to be operational by early in 2015.

Developing the project is InnoWind, a local company owned by EDF Energies Nouvelles; project ownership is shared with the Industrial Development Corporation and the Grassridge Winds of Change Community Trust, a local development trust for the Motherwell community.

Noblesfontein, Victoria West

Vanguard has also been part of the construction of the R1.5-billion Noblesfontein wind farm near Victoria West in the Karoo, Northern Cape, erecting 11 Vestas V100 turbines between April and June 2014.

Working to tight deadlines as the windy season approached, the company mobilised its GTK1100 crane from the Johannesburg branch, including a main carrier for the tower boom, a trailer for the crane superstructure, four trucks with outriggers, and three trucks with spreaders and counterweights. Fast-tracking the permits and navigating difficult roads and hilly terrain near the site, the crane delivery and set-up were completed so that work could begin on 23 April.

Noblesfontein has a total of 41 turbines and has a generating capacity of almost 74 MW of electricity.

Sere, Vredendal

For Eskom’s Sere wind farm near Vredendal on the Western Cape coast, Vanguard were subcontracted to discharge 41 Siemens turbines from the cargo ship at the port of Saldanha, off-load to a storage area, and provide transport to site. This involved about 500 abnormal loads along the 250 kilometre route to site, carried out from October 2013 to July this year.

The project, including all the necessary authorisations, permits and police escorts, was managed and coordinated by Vanguard’s experienced team, including a 500 tonne crane used in the port and a 120 tonne crane on site. The Sere wind farm is expected to begin full commercial operation by the end of 2014, with average annual energy production of about 233,000 MW hours – enough to power about 97,000 standard homes.

Uniquely positioned

These contracts have shown that Vanguard is the only South African-owned company with the expertise and capacity – including fully-licenced and registered equipment – to offer a full turnkey project solution to the growing wind-energy market.

“Our skilled experts produce the high quality of workmanship required on each project, to stay in budget and time constraints without compromising safety,” said Bryan Hodgkinson, managing director of Vanguard.