Wind power serves as an epic power source


2020 was to be a banner year for the wind industry. But with the COVID-19 coronavirus crises, it’s hard to say whether the optimistic outlook for the wind power market will continue. Assuming that the work is not stopped, there is a good chance that the wind market will be a positive point for the crane, rigging and transport industry.

The United States Energy Information Administration (EIA) predicts that the United States will add a near-record level of gigawatts of new wind power capacity to be added to the grid in 2020. A noble prediction, the EIA predicts that the additions US wind capacity in 2019 and 2020 will be close to the annual record level of additions established in 2012.

Wind capacity additions through June 2019 totaled 3.7 gigawatts (GW). According to projects reported to the EIA through surveys and the EIA’s preliminary monthly electric generator inventory, operators expected an additional 8.5 GW to come online by the end. of 2019, and an additional 14.3 GW by the end of 2020.

Changes in annual wind capacity additions in the United States are often linked to changes in tax incentives, according to the EIA. The US Production Tax Credit (PTC) provides operators with a tax credit per kilowatt-hour of renewable electricity produced during the first 10 years of operation of a facility. The PTC initially expired at the end of 2012, but was subsequently renewed retroactively by the United States Congress.

“Developers who expected projects to be completed in time to qualify for PTC resulted in the high level of annual capacity additions in 2012 (13.3 GW), and likewise the phasing out by law of the extension of PTC for wind power has largely contributed to the increase in annual wind power capacity. additions in 2019 and 2020, ”said EIA.

Epic energy source

Wind power is also on the radar of investment firms and the financial media.

“Renewable energy is set for a decade of epic growth,” states a February 5, 2020 article by Maxx Chatsko of The Motley Fool. “Large-scale solar and onshore wind continues to beat most forecasts of previous years. If favorable economic conditions continue to drive investment in the renewable duo, then large-scale onshore solar and wind power could generate 30% of total U.S. electricity by 2030, all carbon-free energy sources. providing up to 60%.

The Motley Fool article went on to say that while many projections predict that solar power will eventually become the main source of electricity in the world, for now, wind power will continue to be the power source. most favored renewable. Chatsko suggested that the “wind drought” is likely over, which means improved technology with new turbines should allow investors to reap the rewards of recent wind farm expansions. A near-record amount of wind came online in 2019, and a record amount is expected to come online in 2020, Chatsko wrote.

According to the EIA, US wind projects must go live by December 2020 to receive the full PTC 2016 value.

Capitalize on the wind

“Based on our current orders, Buckner currently plans to supply main erection cranes for wind projects totaling 9.8 GW,” said Dan Ives, PE, Engineering Product Support and Analyst, Buckner HeavyLift Cranes. “Therefore, 69% of the new wind turbine capacity planned for 2020 will be installed by a Buckner crane,” he said.

North 3

That total is split roughly evenly between its fleet of Liebherr LR 11000 and LR 1600 tracks, Ives said.

“By early spring, Buckner will have 17 LR 11000s in the US, which is way more than any of our competitors combined,” he said. “This is probably the largest concentration of cranes with a capacity of 1000 tonnes that has ever taken place in a single market.”

The Buckner team recently completed a project in Hawaii using an LR 11000 as the main crane. The crane placed new Vestas V-136 wind turbines at a hub height of 105 meters. Eight new turbines have been installed on the north shore of the island. These turbines are part of the Hawaiian energy supplier’s plan to increase the proportion of renewable energy from 18% to over 65% by 2030.

For this deployment, the LR 11000 was installed in SL3F configuration with a main boom of 108 meters and a fixed boom of 12 meters. In this configuration, the crane has a maximum load capacity of 179 metric tons. When assembling the new wind turbines, the heaviest parts – the nacelle with transmission and hub – weigh around 158 tonnes; the crawler crane had to lift this weight to a hub height of 105 meters.

The Liebherr was equipped with 130 tonnes of central ballast and a swivel platform ballast of 250 tonnes. The crane can be used without a derrick.

Wind and snow

According to Alex Rahkonen, Northern Construction, based in Palmer, Mass., Is working on a wind project in eastern Kansas using his Liebherr LR 11000-SL8F2.

With this configuration, the crane has a capacity of 1000 tons, and with a boom, a capacity of 253 tons. There were several reasons why this crane was chosen for the project, said Rahkonen.

“The capacity of a crane of over 600 tonnes was required due to the weight of the components,” he said. “In addition to this requirement, this particular project requires the dismantling and relocation of the crane every few turns. “

He said the ease with which the LR 11000 can be disassembled and assembled has increased efficiency on the jobsite.

“The full capacity of the SL8F2 was not required, but the ability to operate parallel winches significantly increased production over the SL3F,” explained Rahkonen.

The crane is rigged on engineered floors and hardwood mats. The particular challenge of this job is the weather, said Rahkonen.

“The weather is always a problem this time of year,” he said. “A night shift has been added to work in favorable wind conditions. The work should be completed in the next few months.

The next chapter: Maintenance of wind farms

Once a wind farm is finished, the work doesn’t stop. Maintaining wind towers has become an important activity for crane and transportation companies across North America. Dan Ives, PE, Engineering Product Support and Analyst, Buckner HeavyLift, studies every angle of the wind market for his company. He answered these questions about the wind tower maintenance arena.

Liebherr 7 LR 1500 Rotor (1)


Crane maintenance requirements for wind turbines may vary depending on capacity and hook height requirements. While traditionally in the field of all terrain hydraulic cranes, we see a growing market for lattice boom cranes as major components get heavier and hub heights increase. Swapping a gearbox on a 4 MW turbine at 110 meters hub height is quite different from swapping a gearbox on a 2 MW turbine at 80 meters.


Some asset managers will schedule major maintenance for several turbines at a time, and in some cases even for all the turbines on the site, for example to correct a production fault. In these cases, a crawler crane can provide maximum value with its ability to move between fully rigged, ready-to-use turbines.

Our Liebherr LR 1300SX fleet offers many capacities for shorter hub heights, while our Liebherr LR 1500 and LR 1600 fleets can lift long booms and bring high capacity to service hub heights well over 100 meters. When topography or other constraints prevent crawling, our fleet of Liebherr LG 1750 cranes can simultaneously deliver high capacity and high hook height.


Wind turbines require regular maintenance, but the routine variety usually does not use a crane. They typically operate for several years before requiring a major component exchange. However, due to the nature of the Production Tax Credit, many owners purchased turbines in 2016 which were just erected in 2020. Some of these components have been in storage for years, and we are aware of several instances where these conditions have led to premature failure or required preventive maintenance to avoid any long term problems. These atypical conditions to which certain components have been subjected have resulted in atypical maintenance intervals, in some cases.


Naturally, wind turbines are located in windy areas, which can lead to delays and increased costs if the crane breaks down.

An additional challenge that the wind turbine maintenance market has not had to face before is the unprecedented demand for cranes which is felt in 2020 with the increase in the number of new wind turbine installations. Maintenance requiring cranes will likely be affected this year due to limited availability, especially if the elevator requires a crane with a capacity of 500 tonnes or more.


We’ve been involved in the maintenance of wind turbines from the Hawaiian Islands to New England, and everywhere in between. Buckner HeavyLift Cranes is the dominant player in new wind turbine installations, and our goal is to translate our knowledge, experience and relationships in this market into a growing share of the wind maintenance market.


About Author

Leave A Reply