We found an infographic on renewable energy over at LiveScience.com yesterday. It featured a remarkable statistic: Between 2000 and 2010, the total number of kilowatt hours produced by wind energy in the US rose more than 1483%. In 2000 we only used 6 billion kilowatt hours of wind energy. By the end of 2010, we had increased our demand for renewable wind energy to 95 billion kilowatt hours, and it’s steadily going up.
Unfortunately, the wind power industry is challenged with some of the most complex regulatory and logistical problems ever seen, and it’s taking the trucking industry right along with it. Last summer, representatives from the transportation industry, turbine manufacturers and the wind energy corporations got together to discuss the future of this growing sector of green energy. What they discovered was that real changes in federal and state regulatory practices need to happen much sooner rather than later. If the current jumble of industry oversight and engineering design continue it may become impossible to keep wind power logistics profitable for trucking companies.
Why is this? Simply put: wind energy assets cannot be transported 100% of the way to their designated site without over-sized trucks. While it’s true that railways and river barges can get the massive turbines, fins and bases through the first and second transportation legs, the final leg is nearly always done by specialized tractor trailers. Couple that with the mountain of restrictions placed on over-sized loads, such as what roads they’re allowed on, bridge heights, and driver certifications and you have a logistics plan that rocket scientists can’t calculate.
As an example, Jay Folladori, Vice President of Heavy Specialized for Landstar System, commented, “The wind industry has pushed superload permits to astronomical numbers. Four to five are needed for each load — last year, 22,000 were needed for 5,000 wind turbines. Transportation pre-planning is critical to delivery.” Folladori cited a previous contract that involved one truck-route from Fargo, N.D., to a Wyoming wind farm site. The company identified a workable route 894 miles in length, but due to payload and weight restrictions, the route was in constant flux, ultimately totaling to 1,221 miles. That’s 36% more distance that had to be calculated on the road. Know any business plan that can keep that type of contract profitable?
It’s possible to claim that if the thicket of state and federal regulations on payloads and energy assets were overhauled, Green Energy like wind and biofuels could be the next big watershed event for the transportation industry. There’s millions of square feet and gallons of renewable energy fuel and infrastructure that needs to be moved into place. It simply won’t get there without truckers. If state governments met the transportation industry halfway through legal overhaul, the renewable energy sector that currently only provides 8% of our nation’s power (see the infographic below) could flourish and create a new age of prosperity and homeland job creation.