Group of Muskegon residents get to see wind turbine parts unloaded from … – Muskegon Chronicle

October 5, 2012 by  
Filed under Green Energy News

Dave Alexander |


Dave Alexander |

The Muskegon Chronicle

on October 04, 2012 at 6:18 PM

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MUSKEGON, MI – The wind turbine blades coming off the foreign ships at the Mart Dock on Muskegon Lake are big from a distance, but they look a lot bigger up close.

Mart Dock tour

Just ask the 60 or so Muskegon-area residents who got a rare tour Thursday of the commercial dock on Muskegon Lake.

The wind power and Great Lakes shipping fans saw West Michigan crews offloading the last of 31 German-made wind turbine blades from the foreign cargo ship Amstelborg, which is German owned and of Dutch registry.

The 22,000-pound blades that are 192 feet long were stacked on the Mart Dock for overland shipment to the Beebe Community Wind Farm near Ithaca in Gratiot County. A convoy of seven trucks – three carrying blades and four carrying turbine tower sections from South Korea – leaves the Mart Dock for a trip through downtown Muskegon and east on Apple Avenue every morning Mondays through Thursdays.

“They are huge, no doubt,” said Mike Smith, a Muskegon resident who is a retired production worker from the former Sappi paper mill. “I have come out and watched them move those blades from the gate. I just wanted to get a close-up look.

Smith said he is in awe of the West Michigan longshoremen and local crane operators from Erickson’s Inc. from North Muskegon.

“They sure know what they are doing,” he said of the workers, who include specialized truck operators from two companies in Indiana. “The expertise they need to have is just amazing.”

The Mart Dock opened its gates to the public for a noontime tour to watch workers handle the wind turbine parts and offload the 462-foot Amstelborg because local residents have expressed so much interest in the port activities associated with the seven foreign vessels coming here with the equipment from Germany and South Korea.

“We want to promote wind power and the movement of this kind of equipment through Muskegon’s port,” said Max McKee, chairman of the Muskegon-based Sand Products Corp. – parent company of the Mart Dock. “And this was just going to be fun.”

McKee said that opening up the historic Mart Dock for the tour was in the spirit of the “Love Muskegon” movement, created by a group of young professionals in town who are promoting and celebrating what is good about their community. The Mart Dock catered sandwiches for their noon guests from the nearby Fatty Lumpkins Sandwich Shack.

Cargo ship Amstelborg arrives in Muskegon

Sand Products’ Ed Hogan and Nordex field quality engineer Devin Linehan provided technical information for the tour guests and answered questions. Nordex is the wind turbine company supplying the Beebe wind farm, a Chicago-based company with more than a dozen wind developments from Maryland to Colorado.

The first question from the pro-West Michigan visitors is why such parts had to be sourced in Germany and South Korea. Linehan explained that the “value-added” portion of the 43 turbines being constructed in Gratiot County – the hubs, gear box and generator in the “nacelle” – are produced in the company’s Arkansas plant.

However, Nordex was unable to secure blades and tower sections from U.S. sources due to the disruption in the domestic wind energy manufacturing sector from the Congressional delay in reauthorizing the federal “production tax credit” that provides an economic incentive for wind turbines, Linehan. With the uncertainty of Congressional action, production was halted at several U.S. plants and 2013 turbine construction was moved into the 2012 construction season.

There were no blades or tower section available for the Beebe wind farm, which will be completed and producing energy by the end of the year. The alternative energy tax credits are expected to be reauthorized after the Nov. 6 election but such a delay created a lost year of domestic production, Linehan said.

The Mart Dock tour was a family affair for Dona Morgan of Norton Shores, who came with her children and grandchildren. The registered nurse at Mercy Health Partners Hackley Campus said she was glad Thursday was her day off.

“I am really impressed with how large these things are,” Morgan said watching the Amstelborg be unloaded from a loading dock deck on the east end of a Mart Dock warehouse. “It is quite a production.”

The increased port activity began with the first of the seven foreign ships arriving Aug. 22. The Amstelborg was expected to leave Muskegon late in the day Thursday as the fifth of the series of ships – the Marlene Green – was steaming south on Lake Michigan headed for Muskegon.

The 462-foot Marlene Green will enter the Muskegon port with turbine tower sections from South Korea either early Thursday evening or at first light Friday morning. The last two foreign ships with blades from Germany will be in Muskegon later this fall, Hogan said.

“Muskegon has not had something like this in a long time,” Smith said.


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