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August 19, 2019   |   Diesel Technology Forum

Policy Insider

Wind Energy, Diesel Power Working Together to Build the Renewable Energy Future

Whether on land or offshore installation, one thing wind energy projects have in common is that high-powered diesel engines are essential at every step in the process, from transport of turbine and tower components by water, rail and land, to site preparation, to installation.

The move toward renewable sources of electricity around the world is growing, with wind power gaining new attention, demands for qualified contractors and capable equipment to efficiently and safely install wind turbines of every size in every kind of location and environment is increasing. 

Whether on land or offshore installation, one thing wind energy projects have in common is that high-powered diesel engines are essential at every step in the process, from transport of turbine and tower components by water, rail and land, to site preparation, to installation. Diesel is the technology of choice because it provides the power, performance, reliability and portability necessary to build the wind energy future.

Growing Global Interest in Wind Energy

Wind turbines are primarily manufactured in Germany, Spain and China. They are shipped to the U.S. via diesel-powered, ocean-going vessels arriving at U.S. ports for unloading and require heavy-duty diesel trucks and specialized trailers to transport to installation sites.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) in 2018 about 17 percent of electricity generated in the U.S. was from renewable energy sources, including about six percent from wind power. Electric power generation from wind is expected to grow to 20 percent by 2020 and to 35 percent by 2050.

Today in the U.S. there are 59,884 land-based wind turbines covering 43 states and territories in operation according to the United States Wind Turbine Database (USWTDB). Wind energy now reliably delivers over 20 percent of the electricity produced in six states: Kansas, Iowa, Oklahoma, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Maine. Texas has the largest amount of electricity generated from wind energy, producing nearly a quarter of all U.S. wind energy.

Land-Based Wind Sites Rely on Diesel Power

Readying a land-based site for wind turbine installation involves many pieces of heavy-duty diesel construction equipment including bulldozers, excavators, scrapers, trenchers, dump trucks, concrete mixers, backhoes and skid steer loaders to name a few.


A recent video of a site installation for MidAmerican Energy Company shows the highly choreographed installation of the wind tower and demonstrates the importance of diesel technology, from the construction machines - bulldozers and excavators preparing the site, delivering equipment, providing mobile on-site electrical power through diesel generators, and heavy-duty diesel trucks delivering the turbine components including the huge blades.

Derrick and telescoping cranes also play an integral role in the construction, installing base, mid and top tower sections that can weigh 100,000 lbs. or more as well as the rotor assembly, nacelle and rotor blades. This specialized lifting equipment, required to reach the necessary heights to install the towers, nacelle and rotor blades, is all diesel-powered. 

Offshore Wind

Offshore wind farms first appeared off the coast of Denmark in 1991. Today, data from the Global Wind Energy Council, shows offshore wind sector has grown 21 percent average each year since 2013, to a total of 23 GW installed capacity globally. In the U.S., offshore wind energy is expanding and has a technical resource potential of more than 2,000 GW of capacity, or 7,200 TWh of generation per year. For context, this is nearly double the nation’s current electricity use

The first offshore wind farm in the U.S., the Block Island Wind Farm came online in December 2016. It is a five-turbine offshore wind farm in the waters near Block Island, Rhode Island and can power 17,000 homes. The second offshore wind farm in the U.S. is slated for the Atlantic coast, 27 miles off the coast of Virginia Beach. The Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind by Dominion Energy will consist of two 6-megawatt wind turbines will come online in late 2020 to support more than 2,000 megawatts of renewable energy. That’s enough to power 500,000 homes.

New York just announced the results of the largest procurement of offshore wind power in U.S. history. The two projects that are expected to come online in 2024 will be capable of supplying enough electricity to power more than a million homes.

Offshore Wind Installations Are Built by Diesel Power

Marine construction presents unique challenges. From transporting materials and crew to the site, technical construction of foundations and moorings on the ocean floor, laying of cable, erection of the wind turbines and substation – all this relies exclusively on diesel-powered vessels and diesel-powered cranes, drills, electrical generators and other equipment. Most vessels have both main and auxiliary engines as well as several diesel engines dedicated to electrical power generation.

A unique feature of offshore wind construction is the need for an array of workboats including familiar tug boats and barges, specially equipped construction vessels, including supply vessels, lift boats, turbine installation vessels, cable lay vessels, personnel transport vessels, heavy-lift vessels, jack-up vessels which, can be either towed or self-propelled to the construction site, transition to stationary construction platforms when the mechanized jack-up legs are lowered to the ocean floor. 

 Wind Farm Construction

Check out this video from the U.S. Department of Energy on America's First Offshore Wind Farm.


Wind energy will play an increasing role in global electrical power generation, thanks to efforts to de-carbonize the electrical power generation sector and diversify reliance on traditional power sources. Every wind turbine project whether land based or off-shore, could not be completed without diesel technology. The latest generation of diesel-powered machines and equipment achieves near zero emissions and will be essential to help achieve a future powered more by renewable energy.

To learn more about advanced diesel technology used in wind farm installation visit:

 CAT Wind Farm


CNH Industrial



MTU America

John Deere

Volvo Construction Equipment


Volvo Wind Farm


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Ezra Finkin
Director, Policy

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