Wind vane transport: “Everything but standard”

Reading time approx. 3 minutes
Text: Juliane Gringer
Photos: Alexander Volkmann/FUNKE Mediengruppe

P. Schwandner Logistik + Transport GmbH specialises in the transport of vanes for wind turbines. In early 2023, the company brought nine of these extremely heavy and long loads to a wind farm in Thuringia. As with any form of transport of this kind, this was an exciting challenge with regard to people, technology and expertise. This article is part of a series on exceptional transport operations on BPW axles over the past 125 years. Episode 3: Wind turbine blades!

The wind vanes that the P. Schwandner Logistik + Transport GmbH team manoeuvred through the Unstrut valley in Thuringia in 2023 are 74 metres long – more than four times the length of a standard semitrailer. A total of nine of these vanes were brought to a wind farm near Keula in Thuringia, a village with a population of 500: three new wind turbines are being built near the village to convert the power of air movement into green electricity. “We transport around 1,000 wind vanes every year,” says Managing Director Peter Schwandner. “These transports are everything but standard.”

Careful planning in advance

First comes the intricate planning: every job must be carefully thought through, calculated and organised. “What terrain do we have to navigate? Can we get around all the bends? Where do we have to temporarily remove signposts, for example? We clarify such questions far in advance.” This is the only way to ensure that the transport goes as smoothly as possible on the road. Only then will the authorities issue the corresponding permits – which takes longer and longer. “Before the motorways were outsourced to the federal government’s Autobahn GmbH, it took an average of six weeks to obtain a permit – now it takes twelve,” reports Schwandner.

Special vehicles erect wind vanes

Naturally, the shape and dimensions of the objects being moved are unusual in such transports: the cantilevered rotor blades are usually made of composite materials, weigh around twelve tonnes and – because of their length – require skilful manoeuvring, especially when passing through towns and villages. Special vehicles are needed here to raise the vanes in narrow passages, for example. Schwandner uses a blade lifter from the company Goldhofer. The self-propelled blade lifters have a modular design and are therefore extremely flexible. This allows the rotor blade to be tilted and rotated up to 50 degrees. Two people walk alongside and can use remote controls to operate both the self-propelled unit and the wind vane adapter, which is used when the vane is rotated or lifted.

»We choose to buy BPW because we are convinced by the company, by its services and by its quality promise.«

Peter Schwandner, Managing Director, P. Schwandner Logistik + Transport GmbH

Straightforward, target-orientated, sincere

Specialising in Special and heavy transports, the Schwandner team is deployed throughout Europe, moving not only wind turbines but also agricultural, construction and industrial machinery, among other things. Schwandner also handles marine transports worldwide. The company’s services range from providing consultation regarding the most economical transport solution, to applying for the necessary permits, to planning, handling and timely delivery. Schwandner employs about 370 people in Germany – including the Truck drivers. The medium-sized company also has a subsidiary in Eastern Europe, bringing the total in the team to around 700 people. Managing Director Peter Schwandner’s main concern for his customers is honesty: “As a company, we are very straightforward, target-orientated and 100 per cent sincere.”

A partner that remains strong in Europe

The twelve-axle transport vehicle that was used in Thuringia is equipped with BPW Axles. “We choose to buy BPW because we are convinced by the company, by its services and by its quality promise,” says Peter Schwandner. “The stability of the material is extremely important in wind vane transport because it offers reliability. If a special transport were to break down, it would be a mammoth task to get it off the motorway, for example. You can simply tow a truck. But with the vehicles we use here, that would be much more costly or even almost impossible.” BPW delivers precisely the quality that his business needs, says Schwandner: “And I value the company as a partner that remains strong in Europe”.

Zig-zagging through the whole country

The vanes for wind turbines usually come to Europe from Asia by ship, and often travel long distances: “We sometimes travel from Cuxhaven to southern Austria,” says Schwandner. “And we never take the direct route, we zig-zag all over the country.” The timing is determined by the customer: “We are told when the vanes have to be at a construction site – just in time or as an advance delivery – and then our work begins.”

»What I like about transport is the vitality – even if every day brings a little bit of stress, I think that’s what makes our business so special!«

Peter Schwandner, Managing Director, P. Schwandner Logistik + Transport GmbH

Three and a half hours to cover a distance of 15 kilometres

The requirements are as numerous as they are varied. For example, the blade lifters can only be used by day. And the weather has to cooperate: a storm warning had delayed the start of the transport in Thuringia. So here, too, it is individuality and not standard. Thuringia is actively committed to wind power. The project in Keula is another example of this: the turbine has a diameter of 150 metres and generates 4,200 kilowatts of power. The procession was on the road for three and a half hours from Ammern to Keula – a distance of about 15 kilometres. Only one vane could be delivered to the destination each day. And there was a tight curve to negotiate right at the beginning, in Ammern, for which the rotor blades always had to be lifted up. Then a level crossing had to be covered with steel plates so that the vehicle could roll over it without hindrance. In the end, everything went smoothly and the components arrived safely at their destination.

Always look ahead and search for solutions

“Within the framework of the energy revolution, we assume that wind power will remain a promising transport sector for us in the future,” says Peter Schwandner. “That’s why we are investing in new vehicle technology and are continuously expanding in this area.” Even with all the routine, every new project, every new order, is still an exciting challenge for him. And despite all the current adversities, he explains, he remains a positive entrepreneur: “Of course, we also feel the economic fluctuations on the market, and because of the impediments to the expansion of wind power, not everything is progressing as quickly as predicted. But I always look ahead and search for solutions”. Maybe that’s why the graduate in business management still enjoys his work after 30 years in the industry: “What I like about transport is the vitality – even if every day brings a little bit of stress, I think that’s what makes our business so special!”
In 125 years of company history, many extraordinary transport operations have been carried out on BPW axles. We show some of the highlights in this series. You can find more of them – and important patents of Bergische Achsen KG – here.
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