The Eye of the Fish

April 16, 2014

Tight squeeze

While you lot were all tucked up in bed last night, having spent the evening watching a blood red moon eclipse, the Fish was out and about, wondering at the sight of a massive pole being squeezed through tiny openings, and bent around corners.

At a diameter of 4.5m, and sitting on the coolest piece of truck I’ve seen for quite a while, while Wellington was fast asleep a crew of hard working wide load specialists were busy directing a section of a wind turbine tower from the Port, out to Ohariu Valley.

Easier said than done, and there is a definite reason to why they only do this at night – when this 80 tonne load slews around the corner, it blocks all sides of the road at the same time. It’s massive. I’m not sure how long, but this piece here is only half of it. And then there are the 3 blades for the turbine. I was going to stay up and watch them move those as well, as their trailer is even more silly / fantastic, but the rain started pouring down again, and to be honest, I was feeling like a Fish out of water. The only one not in a truck, without a hi-viz, and with no flashing lights.

Issues like getting past Parliament are relatively easy – yes, the wind turbines are taken from the Port, down into the very centre of our democracy, past the dude on the horse at the Cenotaph (I keep thinking he is King Dick Seddon, but I’m sure he is not. Perhaps he’s Alexander the Great?

But it is the getting under the bridges that is evidently the real issue. The load is 4.5m high, but that has to sit on a trailer, and some of our motorway and rail bridges are only just about 4.8m above the road deck, and so the trailer is specially designed to be able to hydraulically lower and to squat down to squeeze through. There was, literally, only millimeters to spare as the Scania from Tranzcarr pulled the load carefully under the rail bridges along the Hutt Road.

These barrels are just half the height of a single wind turbine stand, so they need to do two trips like this for each of the 50 turbines, and they need probably 3 trips for the blades as well. So all up – 50 turbines x 5 trips each = 250 late night road trips in total, with appropriate temporary road closures. Quite a massive operation.
The Scania is met by a mighty big grunty Mack truck at the bottom of Ngauranga Gorge, and this is connected to the front of the Scania with a steel pipe, so the two tractor units can haul the 80 tonne weight up the steep incline. Then they unbolt it on the highway near Johnsonville, and they roar along to Porirua, where I stopped tailing them, and they disappeared into the night to find the new back door to Ohariu Valley. Quite a mission – my congratulations to who seem to have this mission down perfectly, everyone knowing what they are doing, where and when. Minimal noise, minimum fuss, no issues, – no worries! A masterpiece of project management and engineering, and at the end of the day, powering Wellington.

16 - 04 - 14

I caught the guys disassembling the crane at the Il Casino site a couple of months ago. They had a giant vehicle crane in the adjacent road (Jessie St?) There were a string of flatbed trucks waiting along the road. The vehicle crane swung backward and forward with a tolerance of just a few inches between it and the building behind it, lifting sections of lattice and boom on to the waiting trucks. Then they sped off to wherever cranes wait between jobs. It struck me that someone had planned the process down to the last detail, scheduling the crane and the trucks and measuring all the tolerances to ensure that everything went smoothly on the day.

16 - 04 - 14

Indeed, the Jessie St crane job was quite interesting. As was the more recent Elevate apartment crane removal last Sunday, on the corner of Wakefield St. These guys are good. I hope that they are well paid for their efforts. Massive responsibility to avoid screw-ups…

In this case, above, ie the wind-turbines, as I was watching them squeeze the load under the road bridges, I realised that of course someone had already figured this out, long before the turbine was even made. Effectively, the size of the turbine is being set by the available clearance under bridges along the road. No use ordering a bigger turbine from Germany, and then finding that you can’t get it to site…. Stranger things have happened….

16 - 04 - 14

>Massive responsibility to avoid screw-ups…

Absolutely. I’m guessing that it costs tens of thousands of bucks to hire a giant vehicle crane (which IIRC was from Tauranga) and a fleet of trucks for the day. It’d be really bad if you were stuck with bits of lattice sitting on the footpath. Or the vehicle crane couldn’t rotate enough to drop the lattice sections on the truck flatbeds. Someone is an expert at planning and scheduling these sorts of moves, and that person must have nerves of steel.

For the wind turbines, I do wonder why you wouldn’t just barge them around to Makara and land them over the beach like they did on D-Day. Presumably a complex move through the city at night is cheaper than renting a barge. Provided you get it right, and don’t end up with a truck wedged under an overpass when the rush hour begins.

16 - 04 - 14

Fascinating Maximus, great photos. Davidp, I think when they built the wind farm at Makara they shipped the turbines round the coast to a specially built quay, but maybe the scale of this project doesn’t make it worthwhile doing that.

17 - 04 - 14

This wind farm project is about the same size as the previous Project West Wind at Makara, and indeed they could have landed them there, except for one thing: the ancient burghers of Ohariu. Valiantly lead by their peacock-haired MP, the people of Ohariu are a belligerent lot, and they are dead against things like wind turbines, roads connecting Makara and Ohariu, and people from Porirua. The prospect of a new road being driven through, to facilitate the planting of a new wind turbine park, was too much for them, and so they made life so unbearable for the company (Meridian?) that this alternative route was put into place. At least, that’s what I understand. Apparently, there is some curmudgeonly old codger in Ohariu that has rigged up secret cameras, that record what vehicles drive down the road, and if anyone has logos on the side of their vehicle from a firm that is not allowed to be in the area, then he kicks up an almighty fuss. Allegedly. Personally, I think it sounds like he should get out more often, and grow up.

andy foster
17 - 04 - 14

Great pictures Maximus !
One quickie correction from looking at Meridian’s websites
West Wind – 62 turbines, up to 142.6 MW
Mill Creek – 26 turbines, up to 59.8 MW



17 - 04 - 14

And the nacelles. The nub of the whole thing – the giant gearbox that sits at the top of the pole. They’re going to need at least a trip each… My question would be – how do they get the nacelles up on top of the tower? In fact, how do they even get the other half of the tower on top of the first half? Someone on site must have a massive crane…. That can lift 80 tonnes, about 80 meters into the air?

Seamonkey Madness
17 - 04 - 14

Barry, I’m guessing something like this:

Seems those clever vehicle cranes can do everything

John H
22 - 04 - 14

Not all the good burghers of Ohariu are against the idea. I was speaking to a farmer who has lived in the valley for decades who was quite supportive of the wind-farm. He viewed it as a brake on development marching down the valley from Johnsonville and of the subdivision of larger farm blocks into life-style blocks.

It’s been interesting seeing the wind-farm come together on my regular walks along the sky-line walkway up to Mt Kaukau from where I live in Ngaio. It buggers up the view a bit from the tops but nothing that I won’t get used to in time. Most importantly, it doesn’t interrupt the view you can get of Mt Taranaki looming up above the sea horizon on very clear days (it’s quite a special thing to see. Most people have no idea that the mountain is visible from Wellington).

23 - 04 - 14

John H – interesting… I wonder if you can get closer to Ohariu wind-farm than the top of Mt Kaukau? I haven’t tried yet – I just remember that with the Project West Wind the security was very tight, to keep the mad Makara Jorgensens out, and I presumed that the same would be happening here. Maybe I should go back up to the top of Horokiwi and see if the view has changed?

Re Taranaki – I’ve been told that before, but have never managed to see it for real. Obviously haven’t had a clear enough day!

Grant N
28 - 04 - 14

Great photos! Some of the towers are visible from the top end of Newlands Road

28 - 04 - 14

Excellent news, thank you Grant. I have yet to try and get on site to get some photos of the assembly itself – can you see cranes from up there?