Union Pacific Ships Longest Wind Turbine Blades in Company History

Vestas V163-4.5 MW wind turbine blades are transported by rail. | LR

Union Pacific transported Vestas V163-4.5 MW wind turbine blades, the largest wind blade moved across U.S. rail networks.

Union Pacific and Vestas, the leading global wind turbine manufacturer, collaborated to ship the company’s V163-4.5 MW wind turbine blades across the country by rail. The planning of this launch began more than two years ago in 2022, when Vestas introduced its new high-capacity wind turbine.

The wind turbine blades made their seven-day journey, including traveling two shortlines, situated on 72 rail cars, from Colorado to the Port of Brownsville, Texas. A typical blade that Union Pacific transports is 177-feet long. The V163-4.5 blade measures 264 feet, just shy of the length of a football field, and is the longest wind turbine blade transported across major rail service networks in the United States.

The logistics of a cross-country journey of this magnitude required close collaboration between Union Pacific departments. Wind turbine blades this size require assessment to determine a safe travel route without potential obstructions. Union Pacific’s clearances team reviewed multiple routes to identify obstacles like bridge, overpass and signal locations and understand whether any terrain could impact the journey. The railroad’s Shipment Quality team also reviewed the shipment for proper securement with Vestas to meet requirements established by the Association of American Railroads (AAR).

Safety practices, experience and technological capabilities made this unique opportunity successful.

“This is the first of many trains like this,” said Patrick Burke, manager-Marketing & Sales. “Union Pacific’s focus on Safety, Service and Operational Excellence is the perfect fit for this type of innovative move. As the wind market grows, our team is dedicated to partnering with our customers to create industry-leading solutions.”

Union Pacific was the first to ship wind components via rail nearly 20 years ago and was instrumental in designing the first specialized wind flat car. In 2023, wind and solar generated enough power to meet the energy requirements of 61 million American households with plans for continued growth. As renewable energy demand continues to increase, the railroad is well positioned for future transports of wind energy.

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