If helps a successful industry put the wind beneath its wings

13 January 2010
Marine Newsletter 1/2010. The world’s leading manufacturer of wind-turbine blades is LM Glasfiber, which has supplied blades for more than a third of the wind turbines in the world, saving some 70 M tons of atmospheric CO2 by the production of green power.

At LM Glasfiber, the sector’s largest development division is working daily on optimising the performance, durability and price of blades.  Its engineers are constantly pushing back the boundaries of what is possible with composite materials, advanced aerodynamic design, and specially developed production equipment and processes.

Blades are becoming increasingly efficient

Over the past twenty years, turbine capacity has doubled about every four years, which means that over the same period the cost of wind energy has been reduced by about 80%.

The best proof of this is LM Glasfiber’s largest blade, which is also the world’s largest at 61.5 m.  With a rotor diameter of 126 m, the three blades sweep out an area almost equal to two football pitches – and, of course, that’s at a height of more than 120 m above the ground. One turbine with three of these blades can now produce enough green power to provide for the annual needs of 5,000 families.  Just ten years ago, it took four of the most advanced turbines of the time to meet the same demand.

LM Glasfiber produces blades in or near the largest markets for wind energy. For this reason, the firm has production facilities in three continents and 7 different countries, which of course places great demands on the firm’s logistics. 

Transport of blade moulds

An example of LM Glasfiber’s somewhat different transport requirements is moving the firm’s most important production equipment, the unique and gigantic blade moulds.

The moulds are transported between LM Glasfiber’s factories in Denmark, Canada, China, India, Poland, Spain, and the USA.

The moulds are manufactured in Denmark and then distributed to the individual factories. A mould consists of one lower and one upper part, which mean that flatbed trucks are needed.

The moulds are extremely sensitive and walking on them is not permitted because it could damage the surface and make the mould unusable for production.

Because of the vital role of moulds in manufacture, LM Glasfiber has taken out consequential loss cover with If. The policy covers losses that LM Glasfiber may suffer in the event of production hold-ups caused by damage during transport, which means that the mould in question cannot be used for blade production, and therefore causes a hold-up.

Risk

The insurance covers for example risks during loading of the moulds from the firm’s site onto a waiting flatbed truck using an external crane.

In addition to risks during loading, the policy covers LM Glasfiber’s risks during road transport from the factory to the shipping port, which in most cases is Esbjerg or Hamburg. On arrival at the port, the moulds are offloaded from the flatbed trucks onto the quayside, and from there are loaded aboard ship which will carry the moulds through hazardous waters such as the Indian Ocean on a voyage of more than 30 days and over 10,000 km.

To minimise the risk of damage during loading and unloading of the moulds, If has formed an alliance with the inspection bureau Esbjerg Besigt which has more than 30 years experience in loading wind turbine elements. The required surveyor goes through the security of the moulds aboard ship, including welding and use of the correct fittings to satisfy himself that the security arrangements do not fail during transport. 

In the past, hot work has ignited wind turbine elements and caused major loss for the party suffering damage. This is best avoided by using fire blankets during welding, an obvious action that will be required by a qualified surveyor.

On arrival in port at Chennai, unloading the moulds is again supervised by a surveyor appointed by If, who inspects the moulds before unloading, and makes sure that the Indian dockers handling them use the correct equipment and materials, thus considerably reducing the risk of damage. Then there is inland transport waiting to take the moulds over 250 km from Chennai to the factory at Dopesbet.  This part of the transport is also covered by the If Marine cargo insurance policy.  

Consequential loss insurance

By taking out consequential loss insurance, the following areas are covered, among others:

  • Weather conditions, time of year, transport route (better weather conditions = lower risk of damage)
  • Selection of transporter (experienced transporter = lower risk of damage)
  • Port of refuge (the availability of a port of refuge can minimise the risk of loss)
  • Number of loading operations (the more operations, the greater the risk of damage)
  • Loading below or on deck (deck loads have a considerably higher risk of damage, including swamping)
  • Inspection (a qualified surveyor can be present to minimise damage during loading and transport)
  • Consequential loss period (time over which If covers the client’s loss:  the longer the time, the higher the risk)
  • Expected replacement delivery time (the longer the time it takes to make a new mould, the longer a production hold-up will be)

Peter Bredal Mikkelsen