Transport 360, which operates the St. Joseph Regional Port, is working with the wind turbine industry to unload blades, towers and components from barges at the St. Joseph Regional Port Facility.

The blades and components will be transported from various ports in the Gulf of Mexico by barge up the Mississippi and Missouri River to St. Joseph.

Bill Becker, Transport 360 CEO, said the economics of the project looked really good because the blades typically have to be hauled one at a time up the highway system.

“They won’t see any highways that have to be reconstructed, signs moved and all those heavy and oversize issues that you have,” Becker said.

The port has been upgraded with private investment funds estimated at $700,000 to $800,000 in capital investment for two permanent reinforced concrete unloading pads.

The barges can haul 30 to 36 blades at a time. When the blades are pulled by semitrailers, it’s typically only one at a time.

“If we’re going to have these economic towers and so forth brought in to create better forms of electricity, then the best way to do it is to get up to our region without all the disruptions,” Becker said.

The first barge of blades arrived last week and it was the first wind tower barge off-loaded anywhere on the Missouri River. Approximately 16 barges are expected in 2020 and the first part of 2021.

Becker said the blades are getting larger as time goes on. The first ones off-loaded at the port weighed between 60,000 to 70,000 pounds and are 195 feet long.

“The river system has no problem at all with 300- to 600-foot tows, but on the highways that’s a lot to make a curve,” Becker said.

Partners assisting with the improvement project include Transport 360, the St. Joseph Regional Port Authority, the St. Joseph Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Partnership, Snyder and Associates and the city of St. Joseph.

The blades and other wind turbine components will be staged at the port after being off-loaded and transported to wind farms in Northwest and Northeast Missouri and eastern Kansas.

The project also brings in about 20 new jobs for the community and is expected to last upward of five years. It has the potential to remove more than 1,000 heavy semitrailer loads from the U.S. highway system.

Bailey Ketcham can be reached at bailey.ketcham@newspressnow.com.