Morrow County is a growing clean energy hub, but on Tuesday it was just one of many links in the chain. Almost 200 massive turbine blades, each 67 meters long, were delivered by rail to the port and unloaded by crane. The blades, the largest in the state of Oregon, will be transported by truck to the Montague Wind Power Facility near Arlington, where they will be used for turbines that will provide 560,000 megawatt-hours of electricity to Apple data centers in Prineville.
The port was a key part of the transportation process for the equipment. Arlington couldn’t get clearance on the blades because they were too big, but the Port of Morrow had the infrastructure to handle it.
The blades are being transported by Omega Morgan, a company that specializes in heavy rigging, transportation and machinery moving. Each blade weights about 30,000 pounds.
Though Morrow County isn’t the final destination for these turbine blades, it is becoming an important part of transporting major equipment for energy projects around the region. The Port of Morrow is one of several ports and other agencies that make up the Columbia River High, Wide and Heavy Corridor Coalition, a proposed system that would use existing infrastructure to transport loads that are too high, wide, and heavy for regular modes of transportation.
Port of Morrow Director Ryan Neal said the partnering organizations for the proposed “High, Wide and Heavy Coalition” include the ports of Longview, Vancouver, Portland and Morrow, as well as private companies Tidewater, Omega Morgan, Jones Stevedoring and Oregon Trucking Association.
The blades were produced by Vestas, a Danish company. Neal said they were shipped from several destinations — including Colorado, Mexico, Turkey and Germany — to Houston, where they are transported to the Midwest and to Canada. Creating a corridor to transport heavy equipment in the Northwest, he said, would save shippers time and money.
“We’re located in an energy corridor where wind turbines are being installed,” Neal said. “The availability of land we have, the ability to take unit trains — it’s a natural fit.”
Erik Zander, a spokesman for Omega Morgan, said he anticipates his company will be working with the port on several projects in the coming years. He said they already have a presence in the region. They transfer equipment to Hanford, and are currently doing some work on the Carty Generating Station in Boardman.
“With the Wheatridge project, we’re going to do our best to pull that business into the port,” Zander said.
Zander said the corridor is already somewhat of a reality, but the affiliated ports and businesses are trying to improve upon it by providing infrastructure that’s always prepared to accommodate large equipment.
“If you have a load that’s 19 feet tall, you may have to go and talk to five utility companies, to lift their lines to move a load through,” he said. “Instead what if we said, along those routes, don’t put lines that are 16 to 18 feet tall — vary them, or put them at 24 or 25 feet tall. We wouldn’t have to have utility companies come out and lift them, and it wouldn’t slow down the general public.”
It will open up opportunities for transportation companies to ship through the Pacific Northwest, instead of through Houston, as they do now. According to a case study by Omega Morgan, using the Columbia River corridor could save shipping companies up to 28 days and more than 6,200 miles of travel.
“With that comes a tremendous amount of freight, and all of a sudden, it gives people an option to move cargo more efficiently,” he said.
He said in addition to being convenient, it will open up a lot of opportunities for the ports and the region.
“It’s huge economically,” he said. “We’re just missing out on tons of business.”
Zander said the transportation of the blades to Arlington will be complete by mid-May.
The port received a $19.4 million BUILD grant from the state last year, which will help fund marine terminal infrastructure improvements. Neal said those improvements will help the port accommodate the clean energy projects coming through the area.
The story has been corrected to reflect the correct amount of the state BUILD grant awarded to the port in 2018.