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Mammoet unveils wind turbine climbing concept cranes

by John Bambridge on Jun 28, 2017

The WTA 250 climbs a wind turbine mast using guide rails fixed to the exterior of the mast.
The WTA 250 climbs a wind turbine mast using guide rails fixed to the exterior of the mast.
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Heavy lifting and transport company Mammoet has introduced two concept cranes that it is the process of developing to make wind turbine assembly and maintenance projects safer and more efficient.

Both are designed to use the mast of a wind turbine as their primary support, which in turn allows them to lift and lower heavy components to the turbine’s nacelle (housing unit), or hub, with relative ease and efficiency compared to a large lattice boomed crawler or mobile crane assembly.

The first Mammoet crane, the WTA 250, is designed for assembly and will climbs wind turbine masts using a built-in set of guiding rails, while the second, the WTM 100, is designed for maintenance and uses hoisting eyes installed on a wind turbine to pull itself up the structure.

The ultimate impact of Mammoet’s proposed technological shift in wind turbine assembly and maintenance will be to enable wind turbine manufacturers to increase both the height and scale of future turbines beyond the current limits.

The WTA 250, or ‘Wind Turbine Assembly’ crane, has a capacity of 250 tonnes and is being developed in close cooperation with the engineering firm MECAL, which is working on a complementary wind turbine tower design.

The crane is installed on a guide rail that runs up each turbine section, allowing the unit to lift each section of a wind turbine’s tower into place, before using that same section as a support to install the subsequent section.

Once construction has been completed, the guiderail can either be removed, or remain in place to facilitate easy access for future maintenance operations. But, critically, because the crane uses the turbine’s tower for support, the maximum lifting height of the crane is virtually limitless.

The WTM 100, or ‘Wind Turbine Maintenance’ crane works according to a similar principle, and has a capacity of 100 tonnes.

It is attached to pre-installed hoisting eyes at the top of a turbine mast that it then uses to pull itself up into a lifting position, and is equipped with claws that wrap around the tower to steady itself.

“Both cranes are compact: the WTM can easily fit into two standard-sized containers, and the WTA only needs two transport trailers to be moved on site. This makes them much more efficient than conventional alternatives.” explains Wessel Helmens, Mammoet’s director of innovations.

“More importantly, both cranes eliminate the height restrictions for turbines and render both the assembly and replacement process faster and more cost-effective.”

The cranes also offer safety benefits, as Helmens notes: “Because the cranes are attached to the tower, they have no footprint, making the need for additional ground reinforcements virtually redundant.

“The tower-based design also puts the crane and the operator closer to the work area, rendering assembly and maintenance both safer and easier.”

Mammoet is currently discussing the first applications of this new technology with their customers.

They are also exploring other versions. Helmens adds: “Depending on the input from our customers, we may introduce more additions to the WT-series.”