January 15 - BNSF Logistics has successfully tested its new Blade Runner service - an innovative fixture designed to optimise the movement of wind turbine blades via rail and ocean transport.

BNSF says that it has teamed up with engineering and design company Energo to develop the fixtures, which are patent pending, and handling solutions to increase efficiency and drive down the logistics costs involved in moving wind turbine components.

Using the same technology for ocean, rail, truck and storage will allow wind turbine blades to be transported without the need for attached fixtures, which have historically been both expensive and difficult to manage, claims BNSF. 

The universal rail features are designed to handle blades of all sizes, including increasingly longer blades, inside the clearance windows required, making rail a viable option versus truck.

Multiple rail tests were conducted on wind blades over 45 m long at the Port of Corpus Christi, which BNSF explained showed a 35 percent improvement of "clearance envelope", making rail a viable mode choice for almost any North American destination.

The company also claims that its ocean blade stowage design will allow the number of blades carried per ship to be significantly increased. Testing of the ocean bulk ship blade stowage was completed at the Port of Houston, with a land-based test of the ocean system demonstrating the nesting capability, which BNSF says will allow for improved load factor for international transport and improve stowage rates by a minimum of 25 percent over existing configurations.

Utilisation of the new fixture designs is expected to begin in the second quarter of 2015, and BNSF says that this innovation could make previously unattractive areas more viable for wind project development.

John Billingsley, ceo of Tri Global Energy, commented on BNSF's plans: "We are very encouraged by the investment and innovations BNSF Logistics is bringing to the wind energy sector. Reducing all-in project building costs is an essential goal in the highly competitive electric utility power generation industry."


A Spliethoff vessel carrying wind turbine blades.