Workers at the Port of Vancouver looked the size of ants on Monday as they stood near the largest wind turbine blades to ever reach the West Coast.
The wind turbine pieces arrived by ship from China in May and July. They were manufactured by Goldwind Americas. In the coming months, they will be trucked to Canada, for a renewable-energy program from Toronto-based project owner Potentia Renewables. Potentia’s project, called the Golden South Wind Energy Project, is a $325 million project on 34,000 acres of farmland near Regina, Saskatchewan.
The project includes 50 wind turbines, which will generate 900,000 megawatt-hours of electricity and thus remove more than 500,000 tons of carbon from the power grid, according to a news release from the Port of Vancouver. The project is due to begin harvesting wind in early 2021.
Alex Strogen, chief commercial officer for the Port of Vancouver, said that Vancouver’s job is to show that workers here can unload the cargo quickly, safely and at lower cost. It’s the port’s hope to draw similar work, he said.
“We’re setting the stage for the future with other project opportunities,” he said. “We’re proving that we’re the best gateway.”
The blades measure about 250 feet long, nearly the height of the Statue of Liberty. Parts, including the tower, can weigh up to 48 tons.
The port had to remove fencing in order to fit the length of the wind blades into Terminal 5, where they sit awaiting transportation. Getting them to their final destination is no easy task.
A three-day truck journey begins from the port, and will head east to Interstate 205, where the loads turn north toward Canada. The blades are so long that the trucks only operate in the middle of the night to reduce disturbance, but the other pieces can be seen with “oversized load” signs during the day.
The last pieces will be hauled out of the Port of Vancouver by November, Strogen said.
Strogen said that the port could handle even larger blades in the future as long as the technology for wind turbines keeps improving and the demand remains high.
“The bigger the blades, the more energy they’ll generate,” he said.
Randal Bernhardt, a longshore worker for Jones Stevedoring Co., has worked at the port since 1980. He remembers the first time wind turbines came through the port, and they could fit in a shipping container.
“Something new always sparks everybody,” he said. “The scale of these things is amazing.”