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Four crawler cranes deliver strong performance at Texan wind farm

Wind farm builder IEA Constructors used four Manitowoc crawler cranes to install nearly 200 turbines on a development in southern Texas, U.S. To ensure this demanding work program was completed to schedule, Manitowoc’s Lift Solutions division developed a custom-made system to monitor the wear on the cranes’ undercarriages. Impressively, this system showed that despite covering a combined 600 miles (965 km) in crane travel on the project, only minimal wear was registered in the undercarriages.

Machine wear on cranes is a significant issue for those working in wind energy applications. The installation of turbines usually requires crawler cranes to travel hundreds of miles in the course of an assignment, which will result in proportional wear in their undercarriages. But on a project in Texas, U.S., where two Manitowoc MLC650 crawler cranes teamed up with two Manitowoc MLC300 crawler cranes, IEA Constructors (IEA) was delighted to note that all four cranes completed the work with only minimal undercarriage wear, avoiding the downtime needed to replace worn parts.

“We’re beyond satisfied with the wear, or rather lack of wear, on the MLC650 undercarriages. During this project, our Manitowoc crawlers walked for many miles and yet we saw very little wear,” said Jason Ruggles, director of crane operations at IEA Equipment Management, a division within IEA which supplies equipment to the company’s projects nationwide. “Across the whole product line, Manitowoc undercarriages proved to be very durable. For instance, the undercarriage wear on the MLC300 units is significantly less than comparable cranes in the same class, even after carrying out several projects. We’re very happy with the life we’re getting out of the Manitowoc undercarriages and components, and it has contributed significantly to a reduction in our operating costs.”

IEA, a renewable energy and specialty civil construction company, used the cranes to install approximately 200 wind turbines on a project near Sebastian, Texas. To better track damage and minimize wear in the undercarriage, Manitowoc’s Lift Solutions engineers worked with Manitowoc dealer Walter Payton Power Equipment (WPPE) to create a monitoring system tailored specifically to IEA’s needs. This enabled IEA to keep a closer eye on any wear these critical parts experienced.

“We needed a way to continually monitor these wear components without physically measuring the movement between each shaft, pin and bushing,” Ruggles said. “Out in the field our emphasis is on production, so we needed gauges that could act as a ‘go/no-go’ indicator and quickly and accurately measure component wear, giving us a visual reference of the rate of wear.”

The wear gauges were applied to all four Manitowoc cranes. Small monitors on the cranes provided a visual display and continuously reported data to help the team evaluate wear in real time. The gauges monitored wear through the entire course of the project, during which the crawler cranes traversed a combined 600 miles ( 965 km).

Configured with 331.4 ft (101 m) of main boom with a 24.9 ft (7.6 m) extended upper boom point (EUBP) at 28-degree offset, and outfitted with 661,000 lbs (300,000 kg) of counterweight, the two MLC650 crawler cranes helped set upper mid tower sections, blades and V120 nacelles. Performing these lifts meant the cranes had to travel from site to site fully configured, covering distances of several miles each day. As the practice understandably causes significant undercarriage wear and is a cost consideration for contractors, big advantages come with monitoring this wear.

For more information on the MLC650, click here. To read more about the MLC300, click here.


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