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The signal the start of a new, “green” chapter in transportation logistics

  When the first unit train carrying wind turbine components leaves Duluth this week, it will signal the start of a new, “green” chapter in transportation logistics at the westernmost tip of the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway system.

The shipment of 24 Siemens wind turbine nacelles and spinners/cones (plus 33 containers) currently being loaded onto specialty rail cars at the Clure Public Marine Terminal, actually arrived in Duluth from Denmark aboard the Metsaborg two weeks ago and has been securely stored in satellite laydown yards here on the Terminal. Components will be railed to Casper, WY, and delivered from there by truck to their final destination – Duke Energy’s “Top of the World” 101.2-megawatt project in Converse County, WY. This will be a joint move by Union Pacific and BNSF Railway.



While transporting components via rail is not new to the global wind energy industry, it is new for the Port of Duluth, which has been handling intermodal transshipments of towers, blades, nacelles and hubs between ships and trucks since 2004.


“Adding a rail alternative to trucking allows us to expand our transportation capacity and provides significant efficiency and environmental benefits for long-distance transports,” said Sally Chope, Transportation & Logistics Manager for Siemens Energy’s wind power business. “We utilize rail transport whenever possible for long hauls (over 1,000 miles). It’s a much greener option, resulting in as much as an 80 percent carbon footprint reduction.”


Siemens Energy has been using the Port of Duluth for several years to handle their wind turbines. “We choose Duluth for its convenience and for the experience of its workforce,” added Chope. “The location of the Port of Duluth offers easy clearance for our shipments, plus Lake Superior Warehousing has a great deal of experience with our cargo.”


Wind turbine components are manufactured all over the world and, as such, suppliers rely on a combination of at least two, if not all three, primary modes of transportation – water, road and rail – to coordinate delivery of those components to wind farm installations.


“Duluth remains a key link in the wind energy supply chain worldwide,” noted Jonathan Lamb, vice president and general manager at Lake Superior Warehousing Co., terminal operator for the Duluth Seaway Port Authority. “We have an exceptional intermodal facility in Duluth – one that sits at the intersection of three major highway corridors and is served by four Class I railroads (BNSF, CN, CP and Union Pacific) – providing multiple options for direct transfer of project cargo from ship to truck or ship to rail as well as loading out from our satellite laydown yards.”


From a dimensional and weight standpoint, Siemens Energy manufactures some of the largest wind turbines ever handled through the Port of Duluth. “They (Siemens) are a tremendous customer,” added Lamb, “and we appreciate the opportunity to serve them in an expanded logistics role.”


A second ship, the BBC Sweden, is expected to arrive next week with additional nacelles plus hubs for this same project, which means a second unit train will be leaving Duluth for Wyoming soon; more rail transport projects are anticipated as the year unfolds.


Chope added that while these nacelles were manufactured at a Siemens plant in Denmark, the company is midway through construction of a brand new wind turbine nacelle assembly facility in Hutchinson, Kansas, to better meet the increasing demand for clean energy in the Americas. That facility is scheduled to ship its first nacelle in December.


The Port of Duluth has handled nearly a million freight tons of wind turbine components in the past five years. Most were inbound from manufacturers in Germany, Denmark and Spain for delivery to major projects in the Upper Midwest, but we’ve also served projects as far away as Montana, Missouri, Oklahoma, and, now Wyoming. Additionally, we’ve handled outbound shipments of blades manufactured in North Dakota to Spain, Canada, Brazil and Chile.


“Wind energy is a tremendous growth industry, both domestically and globally,” noted Adolph Ojard, Executive Director of the Duluth Seaway Port Authority, “and rail offers a great logistics alternative for long-distance moves of this type of dimensional cargo. While trucking will always play an essential role in the wind energy supply chain, combining the efficiencies of water and rail transport further expands the service area of the Port of Duluth. Working collaboratively, we can all contribute to a cleaner, greener world.”


by Duluth Seaway Port Authority
Tagged in: Trains



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