Sustainable logistics for a new wind farm

Expanding renewable energies is one of today’s fundamental challenges. More and more projects for the production of green electricity have to be realised as quickly as possible. In spring 2022, an Austrian logistics service provider demonstrated the efficient and sustainable transport of system components using multimodal transport, thereby saving almost 120 tonnes of CO2 compared to transport by truck alone.

Wind farm: Sustainable transport of system components

‘The nice thing about our office is that we only have to go downstairs and we are right in the port of Krems,’ Julia Nastl, Head of International Operations at Rhenus Logistics Austria, enthuses about her workplace. ‘This meant that I could immediately check on the spot that everything was correct every time the four block trains we used for our client Max Bögl arrived.’ Based in the Port of Krems and at other locations in Werndorf near Graz and in Vienna, the Austrian logistics service provider offers multimodal forwarding services. These include transport by truck, ship and rail, port handling and storage, customs clearance and value-added services.

The Max Bögl group is in turn one of Germany’s largest construction companies with its headquarters in Sengenthal near Neumarkt in the Upper Palatinate. The cross-border and intermodal project that Rhenus Logistics Austria took on involved transporting a total of 270 concrete third-shells from Sengenthal to the northern Wienerwald. The shell sections, each weighing between ten and eighteen tonnes, were needed there for the construction of three wind turbines at the Schildberg wind farm – more precisely, for the construction of their towers, the largest and heaviest parts of a wind turbine.

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The project in numbers

  • 270 concrete third-shells for 3 wind turbine towers
  • 10- to 18-tonne component weights
  • 119 tonnes of avoided CO2 emissions
  • 3,750 tonnes total weight transported

Wind energy is becoming increasingly important in many European countries, and Austria is also pushing ahead with its expansion. According to IG Windkraft, the Austrian lobby group for wind energy operators, manufacturers and promoters, around 1,300 wind turbines generated a total of 3,300 megawatts of clean electricity in the country in 2021. This supplied more than 2 million households in Austria – that’s about half – and saves 3 million tonnes of CO2 annually.1

Compared to all other generation sources, wind power has grown the most in the past decade, creating more grid capacity than either nuclear or coal-fired power stations and developing into Europe’s largest single power generator. Nevertheless, the expansion of wind power in the EU would still have to almost triple from 11 gigawatts in 2021 to meet EU climate targets.2

lightbulb_outline

Plenty of wind for electricity

  • At the end of 2021, wind turbines in the EU generated a total of 236 gigawatts.
  • A wind turbine generating 5 megawatts of power provides electricity for 3,700 households.
  • The electricity generated by a wind turbine per hour is enough to boil more than 15,000 litres of water.
    Or run a PlayStation around the clock for two years.

 

Source: Interessengemeinschaft Windkraft Österreich3

More green electricity for the Alpine Republic

The Schildberg wind farm east of St. Pölten in Lower Austria, which is Austria’s biggest state, is one project that aims to provide additional green electricity in the Alpine Republic. Three modern wind turbines there should supply electricity for the equivalent of around 10,000 households by the end of 2022. The turbines, which are manufactured by Enercon, will generate a total output of 12.6 megawatts4. They will be operated by the EVN Group, a leading international energy and environmental services provider.

Transporting the 270 third-shells needed for the wind turbines by road was quickly ruled out. Relying on road transport alone would have required some 190 trucks. ‘In view of the high fuel prices, the availability of vehicles and, above all, climate protection, this didn’t make sense,’ says Julia Nastl. The logistics service provider's concept, which the Max Bögl group of companies also preferred, relied primarily on rail transport, with much of the route covered by block trains.

By rail to the Port of Krems

Crane at port of Krems

This transport concept could also be implemented efficiently because the production site for the concrete shells in Sengenthal, Bavaria, has its own rail siding with a first-mile locomotive that could take the parts to the transfer station in Neumarkt, a few kilometres away. From there, they continued across the German-Austrian border to the Danube Port of Krems, which also has a direct rail connection, where the plant components were transshipped and temporarily stored.

The Port of Krems is conveniently located near the Schildberg wind farm construction site. It has two gantry cranes for handling the turbine parts and also the space needed for temporary storage. ‘Our cranes can lift weights of up to 50 tonnes so the concrete shells were not particularly heavy by our standards,’ Nastl reports.

The shells were attached to two hitching points and lifted out of the open freight wagons. In order to prevent damage to the concrete and also effectively protect the bottom edges of the shells, they were placed on special rubber mats on the train, and on rubber feet for intermediate storage in the port. These were provided to the project by the Max Bögl group.

Almost there: The short final stretch by truck

Finally, the wind turbines were transported by road to the installation site some 30 kilometres away. Of the total of 830 kilometres per round trip between Sengenthal and Schildberg, just 60 kilometres had to be covered by truck – i.e. only about seven per cent. The shells were brought to the construction site as required and a call-off list told the logistics service provider the order in which the numbered concrete parts had to be delivered.

The last mile was covered by three-axle tractors towing two- and three-axle trailers with a total weight of 22 to 25.3 tonnes. ‘The advantage of multimodal transport by rail and truck is that the weight on the road can be a bit higher without it being considered a special transport entailing additional requirements,’ Nastl reveals. For example, in this case, the 44-tonne rule for the total permissible weight for pre- and on-carriage to the nearest suitable terminal applied, which is four tonnes more than for road transport alone.

Equipped for any eventuality

‘The final leg also went smoothly even though we had to cope with a twelve per cent incline on an unpaved access road,’ Nastl reports. But the logistics specialist was also prepared for this challenge. ‘Our cargo is well secured for any incline. In the event of bad weather and heavy rain, a towing aid might have been necessary, and we could have procured this at short notice – but in the end we didn’t need it.’

The logistics service provider was also able to impress the client: ‘We are very satisfied with the way the project went. The communication and cooperation with our logistics partner went smoothly so that our components could be delivered to the construction site on schedule,’ sums up Marius Mederer, Project Manager Logistics at Max Bögl. More wind energy plants are planned in Austria for the near future, with 15 new towers slated for construction in Lower Austria, which will mean transporting 19,000 tonnes of material from the construction company.

The importance of multimodal transport is increasing

Signs that multimodal transport will continue to grow in Germany and Austria are good. According to Statista, its share of rail transport in Germany could grow from 30 per cent in 2007 to an expected 37 per cent in 2027.5 In Austria, too, multimodal transport chains are seen to be of central importance, especially for the transition to sustainable energy. The innovation support programme for multimodal freight transport notes: ‘Multimodal transport can – and should – make a significant contribution to sustainable mobility and the extensive decarbonisation of the freight transport system.’6

Austria is aiming at a 40 per cent share of the modal split for rail by 2040. In addition to inland waterways, rail freight transport should become a central component of climate-neutral supply chains.7 The ÖBB framework plan for 2022-2027 foresees an investment of EUR 18.2 billion in the expansion and modernisation of the railways to create a modern rail network in the country within six years.8

 

 

The Danube flows in front of her office in Krems, and the port area of the Rhenus Danube port is just a stone’s throw away. Julia Nastl has been Head of International Operations at Rhenus Logistics Austria since December 2021.

Julia Nastl

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