Wind power teamwork
turbine supplier Alstom chose to take on a multi-site wind power
project in Minnesota for its North American debut, and the 39.6 MW
Adams and Danielson wind projects went well, thanks to a commitment to
safety and teamwork.
One of the big challenges with a wind power construction project is
logistics management, from getting material to the site on time, to the
on-site coordination of people and equipment.
When you have two adjacent projects on the go, and you're trying to
best manage resources in severe winter weather, the logistics challenge
can get really interesting.
was the case with the Adams and
Danielson wind power projects in
Minnesota, which were completed earlier this year. The projects were
developed by Juhl Wind Inc. and involved Alstom supplying a total of 24
of the company's ECO 86 1.65 MW wind turbines to the two wind
based in France but with a
strong, decades-long American
presence, is a leader in supplying equipment and services for power
generation, and these were the company's first wind power projects in
North America. The company has installed or is installing over 2,100
wind turbines producing over 2,700 MW on over 110 wind farms in Spain,
France, Portugal, Italy, the UK, Turkey, Brazil, India, and Japan.
this was the company's
first go at North American wind
power, Alstom was committed to ensuring the Minnesota wind projects
went well and were delivered safely.
were heavily involved in the Adams
and Danielson projects from the
day the first shovel went into the dirt right through to their
commissioning," says Matt Davidson, the company's project manager.
"It's really been an exciting time for the company in North America,"
the successful start up of the
Adams and Danielson wind
projects, Alstom also had one of their 3.0 MW ECO 100 turbines
installed at the National Re-newable Energy Laboratory's (NREL)
National Wind Technology Center (NWTC) in Colorado.
has strategic research
partnerships with both NREL and the
National Institute of Renewable Energy (NIRE) in Lubbock, Texas, (where
they also have a
1.67 MW ECO 86 installed) that will enable the company to integrate its
proven wind power technology with the North American power grid. In
addition, Alstom has expanded its presence in North America with the
construction of a new, 115,000 square foot wind turbine nacelle
assembly facility in Amarillo, Texas.
commercial operation of our
first wind project in North
America is an important milestone for our business," said Andy
Geissbuehler, vice president and general manager of Alstom's Wind
Business in North America. "The combination of this project, our
strategic research partnerships with NREL and NIRE, and the ongoing
construction of our wind turbine assembly facility in Amarillo give us
a solid foothold in the North American wind power market."
see these as big steps in our
entry into the North American wind
market," added Davidson. Along with its expertise in the European
market, Alstom also brings to every project a rock solid commitment.
"We're committed to safety in all of our projects—it's an
area in which we hold ourselves to a very high standard," says
Case in point: the two Minnesota wind
farms were constructed
with zero injuries and zero Lost-Time Incidents during some very
demanding winter weather.
first got involved with the
two projects in May 2010, during
the closing of the turbine supply agreement with the two owners, Adams
Wind Farm LLC and Danielson Wind Farm LLC. "It was a great effort by
concerned—we all worked hard to get our documents so we could
start the project in the early fall."
Even though the Adams and Danielson project sites are relatively close
together—they are only about 10 miles apart—they
were quite different in topography, reports Davidson.
Alstom was able to
achieve some economies of scale and efficiencies
doing the Adams and
Danielson projects, they approached them as two separate projects. If
there was one overriding theme to the projects—in addition to
safety—it was the need for everyone involved to work together.
"When you are up in one site's turbines, you can actually see the other
wind farm. The Adams site is very typical Midwestern, cornfields and
quite flat, and the Danielson site was a little hillier—it
was actually a bit unusual to see those kind of undulations in
"I wouldn't say that it was like night and day working the two
different projects, but Danielson represented a little more of a
challenge with the hills and the extra logistics required. It required
more team coordination on how equipment deliveries were going to be
sequenced and where things were going to be laid out."
While Alstom was able to achieve some economies of scale and
efficiencies doing both projects, they approached them as two separate
projects. If there was one overriding theme to the
projects—in addition to safety—it was the need for
everyone involved to work together.
"There was a lot of teamwork," says Davidson. "Our original idea of the
execution of the projects was to do them sequentially. We wanted to
start at the Adams site and then go to the Danielson site. But as
projects tend to do, things change, and your objectives change. In our
case, there were weather changes, and we had to adjust."
The team came together and considered their options. "We ultimately
decided that the projects should go ahead on parallel paths, and from a
construction standpoint, that there should be an Adams team and a
Danielson team, with each team independently running their project.
Each project had their own main erection cranes and auxiliary cranes
and crews—and they went at ‘er," says Davidson.
With each project having their respective cranes, and a tight timeline,
there was not a great deal of sharing of resources on the erection
side. "On days that they could share cranes, they would. But the
electrical contractor was moving people back and forth. The duration of
their work was a little bit shorter than the erection work, so they
would move between the projects, go where they could to get the work
done, and keep things moving forward." As Davidson notes, it's a lot
easier moving people from one project to another than it is moving
Just how closely the projects proceeded in tandem was illustrated by
the fact that they were completed within days of each other.
Davidson explained that among the core values of their construction
team were discipline and following the principles of effective project
"We were pretty much continuously working the plan and revising the
plan due to weather. Sometimes we would meet with the construction
managers twice in a day and re-work the plan. It was just by
continuously doing the right things—the things that we knew
needed to get done—that we were able to execute the plan so
that both Adams and Danielson were closely on track together."
Constantly changing the plan might seem counter intuitive in terms of
efficiency, but having this flexibility was truly key to both projects
"It's not like we wanted to change the plans," explains Davidson.
"External influences such as the weather or project difficulties or
material delays due to weather required us to make changes. Various
things happen on a project and force you to react, and you need to
react and change, or you're going to be in a worse situation a couple
of hours down the road or the next day."
Even though they started each day with a Plan of the Day, some days
involved having several plans of the day. Some days, Davidson would
meet with the balance-of-plant (BOP) contractor at the end of the day,
so they could prepare changes for the following day's Plan.
Tyler Juhl, from the developer Juhl Wind, was on site pretty much on a
daily basis and was closely involved with any changes. A joint venture
between Carstensen Contracting Inc. and Ryan Companies US Inc. was the
BOP Contractor for the projects.
Davidson, for his part, was philosophical about the sometimes constant
changes, noting that very few wind power project construction jobs run
like clockwork. "Each project has its own challenges," he says.
He emphasized the importance of everyone involved with the job, on site
and off site. Alstom's transportation department did a "phenomenal job"
getting equipment there on time, safely and in good condition. And
everyone, he added, was committed to meeting the March 2011 deadline
for commercial operation of the projects.
"There was a common vision of zero lost-time accidents and meeting the
deadline. We all signed up to meet the deadline, and when you get that
energy, it drives a fire within everybody that we can do this, even
though there may be 15 feet of snow out there."
Getting material to the site was relatively straightforward. Meeker
County, the location for the two wind project sites, is about 60 miles
west of Minneapolis/St. Paul, so major road transportation corridors
were close by.
"There was good access for all of the trucks coming in with the blades,
towers, and the nacelles," says Davidson. "The nacelles came in through
the Port of Duluth, so it was only a day's drive down to the project
"The county roads, with a little bit of work and help from the BOP
Contractor, were perfect. They widened the corners a bit." He added
that they received great cooperation from the county, in terms of the
road work that was done and the occasional road closures that were
working the project plan and revising the plan due to weather. Having
this flexibility was truly key to keeping the Adams and Danielson
projects closely on track.
Alstom and the contractor also worked closely with the landowners, who
are the owners of the wind power projects.
"Sometimes we met with landowners on a daily basis—they were
very engaged in the project and an amazing group of people."
The landowners were supportive, in ways big and
small—sometimes even involving cookies.
"They would come by and lift your spirits," says Davidson. "There were
a lot of long days on those projects, and after one of those long days,
you would come back to the trailer and see some home-made cookies from
one of the landowners. They knew it was -15 out there, and
that the guys were working hard—they were very gracious and
In addition to this being Alstom's first wind project in North America,
it also marked the North American debut of the company's ECO 86 1.65 MW
wind turbines. The company also offers its ECO 100/110 wind turbine
platform to accommodate the differing wind regimes across North
All of Alstom's wind power offerings feature the company's ALSTOM PURE
TORQUE design, a unique rotor support concept that protects
drive train components from deflection loads thereby delivering higher
reliability, higher operational availability, and lower maintenance
"Basically, with the ALSTOM PURE TORQUE design, the forces of the
weight of the blade and the hub are no longer transferred along the
lower speed and high speed shafts," explains Davidson. "The vast
majority of that weight is transferred from the hub and blade down to
the ALSTOM PURE TORQUE system, down to the tower, eliminating the
pendulum effect, and transferring the weight to an area that can better
sustain the load over longer periods of time."
The ECO 86 turbines feature a three-section, 80 meter tower, which is
new to the U.S. market, Davidson notes. "It features a tower embed,
which is more common in the European wind power market. A flange is
embedded into the foundation, so when the contractor comes to stack the
sections, they have a bolted connection, rather than an anchor bolt
Another feature of the ECO 86 is that it has blade extenders. These
extenders house the pitch system, so it's not a straight blade to hub
connection; it's blade to extender, then extender to hub connection. It
required some extra planning and coordination on the part of the
erection contractor to make sure that everyone understood what was
going to happen when two pieces need to be lifted versus the usual one
Even though the Adams and Danielson wind projects went well, Davidson
said there are always things to learn from any wind
project—what to do next time, and what not to do.
"I think any good wind turbine manufacturer or contractor has to
continually strive to progress to be competitive in this market. We
learned some lessons from this project, because this is the first time
we've executed this turbine in the U.S. market."
There is now a better understanding of what is done in the U.S. versus
Europe, and what might be applied."It's been a great process," says
Davidson. "We'll be meeting with the Alstom wind team in Barcelona to
share some of the lessons learned and make changes to make us a better
Davidson added that the larger Alstom team was able to bring a wealth
of experience to North America. "The knowledge from the Alstom wind
team in Barcelona was invaluable. We had a small team come over to help
us out with commissioning the Minnesota projects. They were out there
with us in the middle of the worst winter weather they will probably
ever see in their lifetimes.
"The support we had from them, and from Alstom's entire U.S. team, was
amazing. It gets back to teamwork—there were a lot of people
who made these projects happen."