Developments in the design and size of solar power installations are opening up opportunities for project forwarders and heavy lift providers, reports Phil Hastings.

SolarReserve's 110 MW Cresent Dunnes solar energy park in Nevada, USA.

The design of innovative solar tower installations is creating an additional area of business for specialist heavy lift service providers like Sarens. The towers comprise a large array of sun-tracking mirrors, called heliostats, which focus sunlight on a receiver at the top of a tall concrete tower to provide the energy source for heating a fluid that is in turn used to generate electricity.

“Those towers can be up to 200 m high and for that height you need specialist equipment during the construction process, which we can provide in the form of our tower cranes,” said Stijn Sarens, key account manager power plant segment.


“In mainland Europe, there is generally not enough sun or space to build such installations, although there is in Spain. Elsewhere, though, we have already been involved in the construction of one such project in Israel and another in South Africa. We are hopeful more will come through because that is interesting business for us.”

In fact, recent news from the international solar power industry suggests more projects of this nature are likely. In late 2018, for instance, SolarReserve, a leading USA-based developer of large-scale solar power projects, reported that it had been awarded USD2 million by the US Department of Energy to fund research and development for next-generation heliostat technology designed to “lower the cost of dispatchable solar electricity that is available day and night”.

Earlier the same year, SolarReserve and ACWA Power, a Saudi Arabian developer and investor in power and desalinated water projects worldwide, signed a 20-year power purchase agreement with South African public electricity utility company Eskom relating to the development of a 100 MW solar thermal power project in the Northern Cape region. The Redstone project is said to be the first of its kind in Africa.

Size factor

Meanwhile, the sheer size of many new solar energy farms is generating growing business for forwarders with experience of managing large volume shipments from multiple sources – a trend confirmed by Mikael Pedersen, global segment leader, renewables, industrial projects division/freight forwarding for Geodis Denmark.

“These days it is quite common for projects to include the shipment of thousands of containers, in many cases from various sourcing locations. There are also more solar power plants being built in challenging geographies and/or emerging markets,” he stated.

The key to meeting the associated logistics requirements, claimed Pedersen, is the ability to deploy global processes at all the locations involved.

In addition, he continued, with both the lead times for project implementation and the operational windows for logistics now tending to be shorter than in the past, the ability of forwarders like Geodis to provide robust project management and order management capabilities is a key asset.

Last year, Panalpina also announced that it had secured logistics contracts for large- scale solar power plant developments.

The first relates to the construction of the Ross River solar power plant in Australia, which comprises 417,000 solar panels with a generating capacity of 148 MW. That contract, awarded by Australian integrated services company Downer, covers the control of shipping, Customs clearance, inland transport, warehousing and site coordination for oceanfreight from Asia and the USA.

The Switzerland-headquartered forwarder was also awarded logistics contracts by a leading electrical and communications engineering solutions consortium relating to the construction of seven other solar farms in Australia.

Australia contract

The ever-increasing scale of solar farm project work potentially open to forwarders was further highlighted in late 2018 when Downer announced it had been awarded a contract by German group Belectric Solar and Battery to build what is expected to be Australia’s largest solar farm.

The Limondale project in southern New South Wales, which is scheduled to come online in 2020, will have a generating capacity of 349 MW.

Globally, the three leading countries for solar photovoltaic power generation are currently China, India and the USA, with the largest individual farm said to be the 1,500 MW Tengger Desert solar park in Ningxia, China.

Elsewhere in the world, regions with large open areas – particularly deserts, notably the Middle East and Central Asia – are seeing a stream of large solar farm developments.

This article is taken from HLPFI's January/February 2019 edition.