Earlier this year Dutch wind turbine manufacturer Lagerwey unveiled the world’s fast climbing crane which can be used on the side of a wind turbine tower to enable faster and cheaper construction of wind turbines.
It should be noted that, as with most men, I like big toys. For most men, it’s a Lamborghini, or a Monster Truck, or even those great big dump trucks at coal mines. But for me, my love is devoted to two types of big toys — steam trains and cranes. I love cranes, and living in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne, I get to see a lot of them, building the numerous tenements and apartment buildings. Big cranes, little cranes — cranes building other cranes!
So when my editor passed on this news from June about the world’s first climbing crane used in the construction of another of my loves, wind turbines, I didn’t care that I was late to the party. Just look at this thing:
The climbing crane is not just a novelty, however, having significant implications for the development of wind throughout the world. With the crane not needing a large base area to operate from, the crane enables the construction of wind turbines that might otherwise have been impossible to build — in locations such as dikes, mountain ridges, forests, and marshland. Specifically, a conventional crane requires a long-straight area roughly 200 meters long and several meters wide — or approximately 3000 square meters. The Lagerwey crane only requires 350 square meters. This not only enables construction in more locations, but also cheaper construction, as the mobilization and construction of a conventional crane is an expensive and time-consuming operation. The crane is also able to operate in wind conditions of up to 15 meters per second.
“Wind turbines are continually getting bigger, heavier and taller,” explained Henk Lagerweij, wind pioneer and the Netherlands’ only wind-turbine designer. “On the one hand, this enables us to create more energy with fewer wind turbines. On the other hand, it also means the price of building tall masts like these is constantly rising.
“The cranes capable of building tall wind turbines are scarce and expensive. They also take up a great deal of space on the building site or require vegetation to be removed. This gave me the idea for the Lagerwey Crane, which ‘climbs’ together with the mast while constructing it. Lagerwey transports this crane on three regular trailers and erects it within half a day. The crane also only requires a small base. As a result, the costs involved in using our crane are much lower than for traditional cranes. The same crane can also be used for any necessary maintenance.”
Now, unsurprisingly, at this stage in development — the first prototype crane is expected to be tested in early 2017 — the crane is only compatible with several of Lagerwey’s wind turbine towers. The crane climbs up the tower using prefabricated recesses, and therefore is not currently compatible with any of the company’s competitors. Nevertheless, you can be certain that this design will begin popping up in other company’s wind turbine plans very soon.