Houston-based TNT Cranes replaces transformers on wind turbines

By D.Ann Shiffler25 August 2009

Wind farm maintenance work is big business for Houston-based TNT Cranes.

The band Blood, Sweat and Tears probably was not referring to wind turbines in its 1969 hit song "Spinning Wheel" which assesses "what goes up, must come down." But the lyrics are pretty much spot on when it comes to wind turbine maintenance work.

Wind turbine maintenance is a growing segment of the wind market for crane companies throughout North America. Houston-based TNT Crane has become a go-to company for wind turbine maintenance jobs throughout the state of Texas.

Over the past year TNT has been called on to replace transformers at a variety of wind farms, including the Gulf Wind farm located between Kingsville and Raymondville, TX, about 20 miles south of Sarita, TX.

Recently TNT was called out to replace an 18,000 pound transformer that had failed on a turbine at the Gulf Wind farm.

"We've done this same job several times," says John Heck, who is based in TNT's Corpus Christi branch. "Maintenance work on wind farms has become a routine job for us."

TNT used two cranes for the transformer replacement, its 500-ton capacity Liebherr 1400-7.1 and its 60-ton capacity Terex truck crane.

The Liebherr 1400-7.1 is rigged with 118 feet of main boom, a 13-foot adaption and a 207-foot luffing jib. The transformer rests at a height of about 280 feet.

The 60-ton Terex was used mainly for assisting in the erection of the luffing jib on the Liebherr 1400-7.1

The transformer replacement work is generally simple, Heck says, with the crew aware of what needs to be done and experienced in how to perform the work.

"It takes a pretty good sized crane to do the work," he says. "It takes a lot of boom to reach up there and a good hydraulic crane to chart the 18,000 pound transformer. We've replaced transformers and generators as well."

The defective transformer was taken down using rigging attached to the lifting eyes on the transformer.

"The rigging is standard," says Heck. "We just shackle to the eyes."

On the Gulf Wind farm, getting to the turbines is not a difficult task. "It's easily accessible," says Heck. "In this case, we just sat in the road. When they erected these windmills they made sure there was good access to them."

On this particular job, TNT worked for Mitsubishi Power Systems, manufacturer of the transformers. Mitsubishi handles the transportation for the replacement parts.

"We are actively pursuing wind work," says Heck, "erection and maintenance."

Heck says there are two other new wind farms in the Corpus Christi region, including the PeƱascal Wind Power Project and the Papalode Creek Wind Farm.

Mike Appling, president of TNT Cranes, says with five branches and more than 90 cranes available in the state of Texas, his company is well suited for wind maintenance work.

"This positions us well to continue to grow the wind maintenance piece of our business and more importantly to provide our customers with excellent service and responsiveness," he says.

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D.Ann Shiffler Editor, American Cranes & Transport Tel: +1 512 869 8838 E-mail: d.ann.shiffler@khl.com
Matt Burk VP Sales Tel: +1 312 496 3314 E-mail: matt.burk@khl.com