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Friday, June 2, 2017

Insuring Wind turbines ~ windmill blades in transit

Tilting at windmills is an English idiom which means attacking imaginary enemies.  The phrase is sometimes used to describe confrontations where adversaries are incorrectly perceived, or courses of action that are based on misinterpreted or misapplied heroic, romantic, or idealistic justifications. It may also connote an importune, unfounded, and vain effort against confabulated adversaries for a vain goal.  The phrase derives from an episode in the novel Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes, wherein protagonist Don Quixote fights windmills    that he imagines to be giants.


Wind energy is the kinetic energy that is present in moving air. Electricity generation is the process of generating electric energy from other forms of energy. Besides the conventional source of electric generation, there is renewable source of energy – the Wind mills. Tamilnadu has hundreds of windmills nearer Nagercoil and near Coimbatore. Windmill  also Wind Energy Generator [WEG] is a machine that converts the wind energy into electric energy.  Denmark is known to possess the maximum of Windmills.

One important component of WEG is its blades generally made of wood, canvass, fibre. The blades have to be low weight or density to reduce gravitational forces and have high strength to withstand strong loading of wind and gravitational force of the blade itself; they also should withstand  environmental impacts such as lightning strikes, humidity, and temperature.  Wood and canvas sails were used on early windmills due to their low price, availability, and ease of manufacture. Smaller blades can be made from light metals such as aluminium. These materials, however, require frequent maintenance.   They have 2 portion – one attached to the hub otherwise nozzle, on the tower – at the other end is the tip attached to the blade through a Carbon Axle Shaft fixed on a Guide Tube through Guide Pin arrangement and Steel Wire which is actuated by a Hydraulic cylinder mounted on the Blade.   The modern day blades are fibre and are  built as self supporting structure comprising of two skin halves mounted around the Main spar.

Understanding its dynamics and insuring windmills is a challenge ! -  there are possibilities of transit damages too and then breakdown during operation including probable lightning damages.  A decade or so ago, 1650 KW windmills were considered huge – NEG Micon was one pioneering installation in various parts.  The turbine hub was 78 metres high and the blade had a dia of 82 meters.  There were many other installations of 750KW and 950 KW too.  Before installation, the terrain was surveyed and wind speeds studied for at least an year; data recorded to get average wind speeds and more.  When installed the 1650 KW turbine was projected to generate upto 55 lakhs units per year against 20-22 lakhs of the 750 KW turbine. 


There was one problem for the owners, transporters and  Insurers; -  the blade of the windmill would protrude outside the lorry, exposing itself and increasing the probability of road accident.  In fact, in one  instance, the lorry driver had entered a road side petrol bunk for fuelling, unmindful of the fact that part of the vehicle [part of the windmill] was on the road, a driver who could notice the windmill only when nearer, lost control, hit the truck, damaging the windmill and causing a loss of around 45 lakhs + for the Insurer.

With this background, read more of the transit of longest windmill blade that occurred in 2013. [credit : lmwindpower.com].  LM Windpower is a leading company in the manufacture of windmill blades ~ LM 88.4 P dwarves all its predecessors. There is no other blade like it. Powering an 8 megawatt wind turbine – the rotor is the ‘motor’ for one of the largest mechanical structures on earth. It has been designed and manufactured with sufficient quality and reliability to withstand 25 years of life offshore, in the harshest weather conditions and roughest seas.


One set, of three blades, is capable of powering around 10,000 homes – that’s a whole town – lit up by a single wind turbine. Ten will power a city.  There were challenges, especially when it was moved by truck and it successfully completed the much acclaimed voyage on Danish roads.   Travelers on Denmark’s highway E45 witnessed an impressive sight on the night of June 30, 2013  as the world’s longest blade hit the road for the first time. The blade left LM Wind Power’s factory in Lunderskov at 9:45 p.m. and ended its 218-kilometer trip at 3:30 a.m. in Aalborg

For the crowd watching the blade pull away from the factory, this was the beginning of its journey. But for Koos van der Zee, Blade Transportation Senior Manager, this moment represented nine months of meticulous planning and coordination, culminating in this successful transport.  Though LM Wind Power has decades of experience in preparing big blades for transport, the LM 88.4 P presented unique challenges due to its unprecedented scale. The entire route was carefully mapped out in advance, and specialists were ready to temporarily dismantle guardrails and sign posts where necessary. The full cargo measured just under 100 meters long, with a loaded height of 4.47 meters at its highest point – allowing for only 3 centimeters of extra space when passing under bridges!



Successfully transporting the world’s longest blade was a proud moment for employees and the local community in Lunderskov, and entire families came to the factory to watch and wave flags.  LM Wind Power has a long history in Lunderskov – founded in 1940 as Lunderskov Møbelfabrik.  The company produced its first wind turbine blades in the 1970s, measuring less than 10 meters long at the time.

Interesting ! – challenging for the transporters and Marine Insurers

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

21st May 2017.

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