Intermodal Transport of Windmills

Intermodal Transport of Windmills


Terje Andreas Mathisen, University Of Nordland, Susanne Gaup Moan, PricewaterhouseCoopers


This paper studies transport of windmills from Continental Europe to a planned site in Norway with challenges of long distance, poor infrastructure and rough climate. Different strategies are discussed with the aim of minimizing the generalized transport costs.



Special goods can be difficult to handle due to fragility, weight or size and therefore require special treatment when transported. Windmills are examples of special goods with challenges both with respect to high weight and large size. At least in Europe, the focus on green energy entails rapid development of windmill areas, where large components needing special handling are transported over long distances.

It is the goal of the transport policy within the European Union to establish a sustainable transport system and the successful promotion of intermodal transport has been identified as a critical action in order to achieve this. Because windmills are made of large sections, they are difficult to transport by road and requires special preparation of road infrastructure which can be very costly. Hence, windmill sections have a potential for intermodal transport where particularly water-based transport modes are good alternatives for the long-haul distance.

Empirical data and methodology

This paper studies the transport of windmills from Continental Europe to Norway using a planned project in the middle part of Norway as case. The study applies qualitative data which is gathered by interviews with representatives from two transport companies that has experience with windmill transport. In this case there are challenges related to long transport distance, low standard on infrastructure and rough climate.

Different transport strategies are presented and discussed in relation to a theoretical model aiming to minimize the generalized transport costs. To make intermodal transport a preferred alternative to road haulage, the generalized transport costs would have to be equal or lower. This means that the extra costs due to pre- and post-haulage as well as transshipments at the intermodal terminals must be offset by the lower costs of the long-haul transport.


It is argued that unimodal transport by truck is not practically possible in this case due to many insuperable barriers. Therefore, two types of intermodal transport are discussed more thoroughly where the long-haul distance is carried out using a water-based transport mode. The first alternative implies that the windmill parts are reloaded from truck to ship, while the second alternative is to drive the fully loaded trucks directly onboard ferries. Consequently, higher capacity utilization in the first alternative is weighted against the reduced costs related to handling and damage in the second alternative. A final comment is made on the fact that even though windmills are part of a political strategy aimed at developing green energy, the transport companies are usually not imposed any environmental requirements by the shipper.


Association for European Transport