Moving giant blades requires attention to detail and teamwork

Before and after look at the intersection where the giant blade maneuvered through the intersection.
Seeing the interchange before and during the move shows how difficult it can be to maneuver the giant blades.

It was a bit like threading a needle – only some of the needles were nearly a football field long.

In the last two months, several wind turbine blades, from 219’ – 275’ in length, had to get to Wasco, about 10 miles south of Biggs Junction on the Columbia River. The “eye” they had to move through included Interstate 84, U.S. 97, and Oregon Route 206 – all completely within the Oregon Department of Transportation’s District 9.  No small effort any way you look at it.

The blades are part of The Golden Hills wind turbine project which will cover a wide swath of Sherman County land north and northeast of Moro. Altogether they’re destined to be part of a 51-tower project; 40 Vestas towers and 11 GE towers.

The turbine blade deliveries began in mid-August and finished up at the end of October. Including the time spent on planning, the project has already taken well over a year, with scheduled completion next year in December.

Permits, escorts, traffic control and so much more

Some of the gigantic blades originated from the Port of Vancouver, which means they had to travel through three ODOT districts to get to their destination. Others came from Garden City, Kan. – making their way through four ODOT districts. Staff members are the ones that know what intersections, roadways and bridges can handle a 275-foot load… and which ones can’t.

In addition to staff from several ODOT sections, others involved in this complex process included two wind tower manufacturers, three logistics companies, three prime Contractors, four delivery companies (from the U.S. and Canada) and two Oregon traffic control companies.

The moves also required six miscellaneous permits for improving turn radii in state right of way which included:

  • Earthwork – mostly adding grading/fill and compacting.
  • Removing Signs and guardrail.
  • Relocating drainage inlets/extending culverts, with help from R4 Tech Center.
  • Traffic control for construction phase.  (This included a lot of review work by Region 4 traffic section and even more monitoring by District 9.)

In total, there were 787 Superload permits, with 1,040 total permits issued through ODOT’s Commerce and Compliance Division. Several loads went to two different temporary yards within District 9, which required subsequent permits. Overall, the moves included extensive traffic control plans with signal shutoffs, rolling slowdowns and even a detour through private property!

Tower details

All of this hard work and detailed coordination will result in the following:

  • Vestas towers = 11 loads per tower; 4.2 MW; finished tower height 590’.
  • GE towers = 8 loads per tower, 2.5 MW; finished tower height 493’.

These towers will provide energy that will benefit the entire Pacific Northwest, and our crews can be proud of the support they provided in making it happen. Supporting alternative energy sources and the state’s economy align with ODOT’s Strategic Action Plan priority of creating a modern transportation system. Well done, team!