Sunflower Horizons

Wind industry could take toll on Kansas highways

Giant blades are among the pieces of oversized equipment trucked throughout Kansas to meet the state and region's booming wind industry demands. This blade was at the westbound weigh station on Interstate 70 near the Kansas State Highway 99 interchange

Giant blades are among the pieces of oversized equipment trucked throughout Kansas to meet the state and region's booming wind industry demands. This blade was at the westbound weigh station on Interstate 70 near the Kansas State Highway 99 interchange

March 24, 2011

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This truck is carrying a piece of a wind tower in the western Kansas town of Oakley. Overweight loads hauling wind turbine components have increased 700 percent since 2006.

This truck is carrying a piece of a wind tower in the western Kansas town of Oakley. Overweight loads hauling wind turbine components have increased 700 percent since 2006.

Siemens Energy has opened a wind turbine manufacturing plant in Hutchinson that will begin making nacelles like this. This school-bus sized piece of equipment is the engine of the turbine that converts the wind's energy into electricity.

Siemens Energy has opened a wind turbine manufacturing plant in Hutchinson that will begin making nacelles like this. This school-bus sized piece of equipment is the engine of the turbine that converts the wind's energy into electricity.

As the wind industry in Kansas booms, state highway officials are looking at how to better manage the trucks needed to carry pieces of the massive wind turbines.

Today, Kansas roadways see seven times more trucks carrying extremely heavy loads of wind tower components than they did five years ago.

“It’s a growing sector of the manufacturing sector, not only in Kansas but other central states,” said John Maddox, Kansas Department of Transportation’s rail and freight program manager.

In 2010, KDOT recorded more than 7,500 truck loads of 150,000 pounds or more carrying wind tower components. In 2006, the number of these extremely heavy loads was less than 1,000.

Some of the loads are coming from out of state and heading toward Kansas wind farms under construction and others are just passing through the state, Maddox said.

Traffic is only expected to increase.

In December, Siemens Energy opened a wind turbine manufacturing plant in Hutchinson. The plant is building nacelles, a 90-ton, school-bus-sized piece of equipment that sits at the top of the wind tower and is the engine of the turbine.

Other companies have plans of opening wind manufacturing facilities in Kansas, including one in Ottawa.

And the building of more wind farms is being proposed throughout Kansas, adding to the nine farms that already operate.

While a growing wind industry is a positive for the Kansas economy, the heavy loads needed to get wind turbines to their destinations will damage the roads over time.

“We do keep it in the back of our minds,” said John Culbertson, a bridge evaluation engineer at KDOT.

That impact to the roadways is one of the reasons KDOT is updating its permitting process of routing overweight and oversized loads from a paper system to one that uses Web-based software.

As part of the permitting process, KDOT analyzes what routes the trucks should take to avoid bridges that can’t hold the weight, low underpasses and narrow construction zones. In 2010, KDOT issued 70,000 permits for oversized or overweight loads. More than 1,000 of those permits were for overweight trucks carrying wind tower components.

The new software system, known as Kansas Truck Routing and Intelligent Permitting System, will automatically generate and evaluate alternate routes for large loads.

“There is a concern,” Culbertson said of the heavy wind turbine loads that are carried over Kansas roads. “This is one of the reasons for the new software. It will help us track and plan a little bit better.”

Comments

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 6 months ago

For comparison, the 20,000 plus gas wells in Kansas will need well over 1000 truckloads to service each over its lifetime-- that comes to over 20 million truckloads.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 6 months ago

Too bad we won't have any water to drink after their fracking has made every well, stream, pond and river too toxic to filter for drining water.

But what the heck, we'll die warm, early deaths.

gudpoynt 6 years, 6 months ago

DeaconBlue -- or we'll just need better batteries for storing energy. Lot's of people are working on that as we speak.

lmb 6 years, 6 months ago

Are you attempting to imply that wind is better than gas because of future maintenance for gas production? If so, you really missed the mark. Wind turbines need maintenance as well. Don't tell me you believe all it takes is the initial installation.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 6 months ago

Wind generators don't take anywhere near the ongoing maintenance that gas wells do, and the great majority of those trucks are shipping in toxic chemicals to be injected into the ground, which can quickly find themselves seeping into the water supplies of those who live nearby or downstream; or they carry away some of those same toxic chemicals, all of which are exempt from the safe drinking water act.

xclusive85 6 years, 6 months ago

Do you have a link or links to some articles on this that you have read and found informative? I am not up to date on what it takes to service the wells and would be interested if you have already done the leg work. If not, I will do it.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 6 months ago

Check out the documentary Gasland. You can get it at the library, most video stores, netflix.

http://www.gaslandthemovie.com/

pea 6 years, 6 months ago

Ban heavy things! YGTBFSM with this article.

yourworstnightmare 6 years, 6 months ago

This is a ridiculous article. Use of highways by any truck or vehicle wears on them. There is nothing special about these trucks. Will wind power result in more trucks on the roads? Possibly. But commercial highway use goes up every year despite wind power.

Oh, wait. That is the wrong response. I was supposed to respond like a bonehead and call for wind power to be ceased because of the wear and tear on the roads.

deec 6 years, 6 months ago

"In 2010, KDOT issued 70,000 permits for oversized or overweight loads. More than a 1,000 of those permits were for overweight trucks carrying wind tower components." Ooh be scared! 1/70th of the very heavy trucks have wind energy loads!

citizen4honor 6 years, 6 months ago

Classic liberal thinking. They advertise Wind as so much better they never look at the big picture. Ever see Canadian highways? Beautiful. Why? They don't allow such heavy loads.

Wind is a very inefficient energy source and only good when the wind is blowing. These super heavy loads will increase taxpayer costs and WASTE ENERGY since we have to use up resources to repair the roads. Use coal. Best energy source we have. The ash is reusable and really is a good "green" source.

The only ones making out here are Obama and his buddies at GE.

weegee 6 years, 6 months ago

How much time have you spent in Kansas? When ISN'T the wind blowing...

somedude20 6 years, 6 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

gudpoynt 6 years, 6 months ago

answer: better batteries. Smart people the world over are working on just that problem.

ksjayhawk74 6 years, 6 months ago

Oh no! Wind energy might make roads need repair or something.

The worst thing about these wind turbines is that they have to be precisely maintained by scientists and engineers on a constant basis and if they fail from any of a number of possible scenarios, thousands of people die and the entire area becomes a nuclear wasteland which takes several generations and billions of dollars to recover from... Oh wait that's nuclear energy that could very realistically cause a global scale apocalypse.

But still, extra wear on our roads... and we have to see them when we drive by... and what happens when we run out of wind?

notanota 6 years, 6 months ago

We should open up our strategic wind reserves.

bad_dog 6 years, 6 months ago

Main office in D.C., satellite office in Topeka.

anonyname 6 years, 6 months ago

"In 2006, the number of these extremely heavy loads was less than a 1,000."

"More than a 1,000 of those permits were for overweight trucks carrying wind tower components."

A 1,000? Really??

ChristineMetz 6 years, 6 months ago

Hi anonyname,

The first 1,000 figure refers to the number of loads carrying more than 150,000 pounds. The second 1,000 is in reference to the number of permits issued. Obviously permits cover more than one load.

Hope that helps. Christine Metz

milehighhawk 6 years, 6 months ago

I think the comment was about "a 1,000" instead of "1,000"

deec 6 years, 6 months ago

The wind parts trucks are .14 % of the heavy traffic. Maybe we should ban the other 99.86% of the heavy loads.

wdl 6 years, 6 months ago

I am stumped as to why this is even an article. I never once thought we would transport these components any way other than by rail and/or truck. Isn't this why we have roads and I hope bridges that will accomidate the weight. Granted the parts exceed the 80,000 lb limitation placed on commercial 18 wheelers, but they have to secure the proper permits to transport the over sized loads. Routing of course is key here, but it sounds like it is under control. Seems all we do in the US is constantly stir the bucket of crap to see what floats.

We don't seem to embrace nuclear energy. Coal and gas fired plants are dirty and yukky. Solar is not far enough along to power entire cities. That leaves wind as one of the sources that can produce clean energy. But now we have concerns about the birds flying into the props. They make the landscape ugly. They make some noise that some might find annoying. Now we are worried about the roads holding up. Thats why we build and maintain the roads, isn't it!

My only conclusion to all of this nonsense for those who can't get a grip is just unplug from the grid and have it your way. You can't have it both ways.

tomatogrower 6 years, 6 months ago

So it's ok for oil companies to pollute the land and oceans, and hold us hostage with need to make record profits, but it's bad that the wind energy people might create a some potholes? The world has gone insane.

tomatogrower 6 years, 6 months ago

That should be "their need to make record profits".

Kyle Reed 6 years, 6 months ago

Could you please point out where in the article it talks about anything being good or bad? The article simply state the reality and the fact that they are planning and keeping in mind this reality moving forward. Lighten up Francis...

bendover61 6 years, 6 months ago

Once the government subsidies stop so will the wind turbines. We are out of money.

deec 6 years, 6 months ago

Perhaps the same could be said of oil and coal subsidies, as well as agricultural subsidies.

John Hamm 6 years, 6 months ago

Anybody pay attention to the acronym? Kansas Truck Routing and Intelligent Permitting System KTRIPS. Oh, seems to me they paid more attention to that than an easy way to do what they want...... like Google or Yahoo maps.

reallyintheknow 6 years, 6 months ago

Yeah...I am sure that they can route these heavy trucks using google maps. Since when does Google maps do weight analysis or check for vertical clearance issues or construction. yeah I am sure the state has just been throwing money away making sure they can get a system because of the "really cool acronymn"

Clark Coan 6 years, 6 months ago

Wait until they start shipping the 145 million pounds of spent fuel rods to a repository. Accidents and leaks will abound on the highways. One could even occur in North Lawrence on I-70. I suspect they will be shipped to Carlsbad, NM where the military ships its low-level radwaste.

Flap Doodle 6 years, 6 months ago

Debbie Downer is always going to have something to gripe about.

DillonBarnes 6 years, 6 months ago

I didn't find this article political at all, yet ya'll tried very hard to make it one.

This article said, "More heavy trucks driving on Kansas highways, KDOT aware"

TaDa.

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