As the market for renewable energy continues to grow, so do the scope and scale of wind power generation. Of course, bigger and more efficient windfarms require larger structures. In fact, today’s wind turbine installations weigh thousands of tonnes each.

One recent mega-project is Yunlin, a 640-megawatt windfarm off the west coast of Taiwan – but one of the key infrastructural elements of the project actually took shape more than 9,000 km away in Germany…

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Realizing the energy transition

It’s 01:00 on a freezing, windswept North Sea coastline at Steelwind Nordenham – the production site for some of the world’s largest monopiles. The imposing fabrication unit that dominates the local skyline supplieswindfarms across the globe with the pieces they need to bring renewable energy to the grid.

The Yunlin monopiles, fabricated from high-strength steel plate, have now been moved out onto Steelwind’s factory-side loading dock, where several enormous cranes are preparing to lift them onto ships, ready for sea transport.

But moving these gigantic structures requires precision-engineered lifts. Each one presents a unique set of challenges for the lifting teams, who are constantly moving along the dockside making small but critical adjustments to ensure the safety of cargo and crew. With the wind and rain whipping around them, the teams are reliant on their tools, their equipment, and each other to meet the project’s strict deadlines without compromising on safety.

The key challenge is handling so much weight safely. It’s the highest priority because we have very fast loading processes and therefore need to make sure our operations are absolutely safe.

Dr Hubo, Managing Director, Steelwind Nordenham

Putting safety first – always

The pressure is on to deliver smooth and effective lifting processes for these large monopiles – each one measuring up to 90 meters in length, 11 meters in diameter, and 2,400 tonnes in weight. Since the Yunlin site is made up of 80 turbines, manufacturing and transport is a year-round project, which means lifts are taking place in all kinds of challenging (and changeable) weather conditions.

As if that wasn’t enough, the tides at Nordenham mean there are specific, narrow operating windows during which the massive transport ships can be safely loaded with monopiles before leaving port with their giant cargo.

Diamond Background

Dyneema®: The vital link

In a situation like this, lightweight slings can make the difference. They allow lifting crews to easily maneuver them into the correct position around the monopile, without needing specialist equipment or damaging the cargo. This significantly speeds up the process, as the slings must be precisely positioned along the monopile’s 90-meter length to ensure a safe and effective lift. This ease of use also lightens the load on workers, leading to improved safety outcomes for the lifting team.

“For lifting projects of this scale, the most important thing is the connection between the crane hook and the monopile,” says Patrick van der Veen, Operations Manager at Lift-Tex Industrie, the heavy lifting sling manufacturer for the Yunlin project. “That’s why we’re using Extreema® round slings made with Dyneema®: with 40 complete monopiles and 120 segments to lift, we need slings we can rely on. Dyneema® SK78 fiber provides high and consistent quality over a long lifetime that guarantees job safety. It enables a very lightweight lifting product, which not only saves a lot of time and energy but also means less weight is added to the crane’s payload.”

Dyneema® SK78 fiber is the best choice because of its durability and reliability. The expected service life of a sling depends on how a lifting application is designed and used, but, based on our research in collaboration with Dyneema®, we calculate that we can achieve at least 3,500 lifts. For this kind of demanding lifting operation, I wouldn’t recommend using anything other than Dyneema® SK78.

Patrick van der Veen, Operations Manager, Lift-Tex Industrie B.V.

Best in class

When it matters, performance is everything, and Dyneema® – eight times lighter than steel – certainly delivers. “At one-third of the weight and half the diameter of polyester, it's less bulky, making it easier to handle and a better fit for the related equipment,” says Judith Bosch, Application Manager, Dyneema®, Avient. “Plus, Dyneema® has less stretch, which is very important in conditions where precision positioning is required.”

But lifting slings made with Dyneema® SK78 fiber also bring a range of other benefits.

“Not only does Dyneema® fiber have excellent UV performance,” continues Judith, “but it’s also suitable for low and high temperatures from -40°C to 70°C. If you’re in any doubt about the performance of Dyneema® in high temperatures, our proprietary performance models are on hand to do the calculations for any application and region.”

Choosing Dyneema® also means choosing a more sustainable solution. “Dyneema® fiber gives applications a service life at least two times longer than other HMPE, for fewer replacements and less resource consumption,” Bosch explains. “In fact, it offers the lowest carbon footprint per unit strength. We also produce bio-based Dyneema® fiber, with a commitment to ensuring 60% of production is fed by sustainable feedstock by 2030.”

Diamond Background

The combination of reliability and a long service life means lifting slings made with Dyneema® are highly valuable assets, not just consumables.

Judith Bosch, Application Manager, Dyneema®

Enabling a new era in wind power

Back to our scene: it’s now 02:00, it’s started to snow, and the dock is beginning to empty as the tide changesand the window for moving these massive monopiles onto the ship slams shut. With such tight deadlines and in such difficult weather conditions, everything must run like clockwork, every worker must be ready at a moment’s notice, and every piece of equipment must perform perfectly.

Without complete trust in both the team and its tools, these kinds of heavy lifting projects would be impossible. But thanks to the strength of Dyneema® in lifting sling applications, teams like Steelwind and sites like Yunlin can usher in a new dawn in renewable energy.

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Interested in learning more about Dyneema® for your project or end-use application? Reach out to our team of experts today.

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