Port of Brownsville profits from shipments of wind farm components

The development of a wind farm project in a neighboring county is proving beneficial for the Port of Brownsville by virtue of wind generation components being shipped through the port.
Wind towers manufactured in China and destined for the Los Vientos II wind farm project in Willacy County arrived at the port earlier this week.

They eventually will be trucked to the project site, which is roughly 120 miles south of Corpus Christi and 20 miles inland from the Gulf of Mexico. Duke Energy Renewables, developer of several wind farms in Texas, is the company behind the project.

On Monday morning the port took delivery of components for 17 towers, each of which will stand approximately 280 feet when assembled, said port spokesman Manuel Ortiz. The port will take delivery of more towers over the coming weeks for a grand total of 47, he said.

The tower pieces are unloaded by the cargo vessel’s onboard crane, placed on trucks and transported to a staging area on port property. There the tower parts will remain for 8-10 weeks before being taken to Willacy County, Ortiz said.

When it’s time to move them, the towers will be transported two per day, each tower requiring six 18-wheelers to move.

Three companies are handling the logistics: Dix Shipping, Gulfstream Marine and Lone Star Transportation.

In addition, sometime in late February the port will take delivery of 122 giant rotor blades that are also part of the Los Vientos installation, Ortiz said.
For the port and the firms that operate there, wind power translates into revenue and jobs. As such, everybody hopes to keep the "green" cargo coming.
"It’s good for business," Ortiz said. "This really does have an economic impact, not only for Brownsville but for the region."

It also demonstrates to the world that the port has the flexibility and capacity to handle lots of different kinds of cargo, he said.

Ortiz said the port — while continuing to develop its traditional cargo trade in things like bulk liquid and steel — wants to "go green" on multiple levels. He noted that port officials are in talks with wind, solar and biofuel companies.

"While we are focused on continuing the momentum gained in our core operations during 2011, we are also focused on diversifying not only the type of companies located at the Port of Brownsville but also the type of cargo we handle," said Eddie Campirano, port director and CEO.

Ortiz said cargo figures for fiscal year 2011 appear to be on track to exceed those for 2010 and 2009, partly a sign of some recovery from the recession.
Meanwhile, this year is already off to a promising start, he said, citing "significant opportunities" the port had secured just since Jan. 1 — including two vessels that will bring in more than 80,000 tons of steel slab.

Ortiz said the port’s vision statement, adopted in 2009, foresees many more jobs and private and public investment by 2015. The way things are going, if wind towers are a harbinger of things to come, it should be doable, he said.

"It’s an example that we’re on the right track," Ortiz said.

North Carolina-based Duke Energy expects Los Vientos II and the first phase of the project, Los Vientos I, to be in commercial operation by the end of this year.

Los Vientos II marks Duke’s fifth wind farm in Texas. Since 2007, the company has invested more than $1.75 billion to build 10 wind farms across the country.

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