Tuesday, October 11, 2011

You can't cowboy this through

I'm not exactly sure why, but something really fascinated me about this great story that Geoff Manaugh carried in his BldBlog web site the other day, following up on a more detailed story in the New York Times.
How do you do it? The rock has already been raised off the ground by hydraulic lifts and put in a cradle; steel trusses were built around the cradle, all part of a modular tractor with 22 axles, each with its own set of brakes, and 196 wheels. It will weigh 1,210,900 pounds, including the rock. “That’s a lot,” Mr. Albrecht said. “But the weight per axle should be about 349,950 pounds. That’s not so bad. You’ll get more on some of these rock trips coming out of this quarry every day. We’re not worried.”

The rig will be about 295 feet long and 27 feet wide and require a crew of 12 people to operate it. The modular assembly means it should be able to turn, like a caterpillar, and thus navigate corners in Los Angeles that can challenge more conventional rigs.

The efforts involved in moving objects like this around remind me of the current work underway at the Altamont Pass Wind Farm. The current wind turbines are quite dangerous to the local birds, and so a massive project is underway to upgrade all the turbines to new models that are more bird-safe.

Nearly 2,000 of the 4,000 wind turbines in operation, many of which are nearly 30 years old, will be replaced over the next four years with about 100 huge state-of-the-art turbines that, at 430 feet, stand taller than the tallest coast redwood trees. For every new turbine installed, 23 of the old ones will be removed -- a dramatic drop expected to significantly reduce the number of birds killed each year.

Of course, this involves building these turbines, bringing them to the area, and installing them,

On a recent morning, a construction crew used a 315-foot-tall crane to lift a 180,000-pound unit that contains the gear box and generator to the top of the tower. Each of the three blades on a turbine is 150 feet long, nearly the width of a football field. In high winds, the tips of the blades spin at 180 mph.

But this, too, is no simple task. Although this isn't the first time they've done this, and even though the movers try to plan ahead, life happens, and complications ensue. (Do you suppose it's just a coincidence that the staging area for the new turbines is a location in Solano County named "Birds Landing"???)

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