Windmill blades wind through area

Published 9:55 pm Monday, September 26, 2016

More than 300 183-foot-long windmill blades will have been transported along the Norfolk and Portsmouth Belt Line Railroad by early December.

“This is such a big deal but it’s flying under the radar,” said Donna Coleman, vice president at the Norfolk and Portsmouth Belt Line Railroad.

By the end of this week, the station is anticipating its sixth train to arrive, according to Coleman. The last two trains are expected in the coming months.


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The trains, which typically consist of 72 cars, carry 36 blades apiece. Each blade sits atop two 86-foot-long rail cars with some overhang.

Since May, the operation, coordinated by BNSF Logistics, has been transporting the blades from Santa Teresa, N.M., to Hertford County, N.C.

The cargo travels from New Mexico, along the Union Pacific Railroad, to New Orleans, where it is handed off to CSX Corporation. Once the blades are in Portsmouth, CSX turns them over to the NPBL railway.

The blades are then offloaded at the Portsmouth Marine Terminal and loaded on trucks headed to the Amazon Wind Farm in Hertford County. The blades travel one at a time on the trucks.

“It couldn’t have been successful as it has without the work of everyone,” said Cannon Moss, president and general manager at Norfolk and Portsmouth Belt Line Railroad.

The Amazon Wind Farm will be home to more than 100 windmills in the near future, according to Coleman. The farm, expected to be one of the largest in the nation’s southeastern region, will generate 208 megawatts of power, enough to power 60,000 homes, according to an announcement by the Elizabeth City/Pasquotank Economic Development Commission.

A complete transport cycle can take three to four weeks, depending on the weather, according to Coleman. However, due to weather delays and other precautions, the operation is currently behind schedule.

“We had such a wet spring, and you can’t unload in high winds,” she said.

The blades were manufactured by TPI Composites Inc., an Arizona-based wind blades manufacturer, in conjunction with Gamesa, a Spain-based wind turbine manufacturer, according to the El Paso Times.

When they’re erected, the windmill rotors will have a diameter of 374 feet. Attached to a 305-foot tower, the full assembly will stretch 492 feet into the sky at its highest point, according to the economic development commission.

Pasquotank County expects to receive $520,000 in taxes during the first year of the farm’s operation, and the total of landowner payments and taxes for the project is expected to inject more than $1.1 million a year into the local economy.

During the 18-month construction period, about 250 construction jobs are expected to be created, officials stated on the economic development commission’s website.