Renewable energy infrastructure projects are large and complex, requiring experts in project logistics services to coordinate global shipping and last-mile delivery. This article covers five must-have capabilities for project logistics partners for solar and other renewable energy projects.
Throughout the U.S. and worldwide, solar, wind, hydro, biomass, and geothermal construction projects are dotting the landscape, transforming hundreds of acres of open space into dense energy farms.
Each of these installations requires skilled project logistics services. We’re talking about thousands of containers coming from dozens of suppliers all over the world – delivered according to a precise and unforgiving schedule. The financial risks for utility companies and other energy farm developers are enormous if shipment and other delays upend project timelines.
That pressure funnels out to key supplies (solar panels, tubing, turbine blades, micro-circuitry, etc) that rely on project logistics services to meet their delivery promises to developers.
Here are five critical capabilities to look for in a project logistics specialist for renewable energy logistics projects.
1. Superb Planning and Coordination
As a supplier for these mammoth infrastructure projects, your logistics partner needs excellent planning skills, both at the local installation level and also globally if you ship to sites throughout the world. At the local level, we’re not talking about installs that begin after all containers are delivered to a staging warehouse. No – this often involves just-in-time delivery direct to the construction site. Install teams are there waiting for the needed materials – and they’re getting paid, whether the equipment is there or not.
When it’s not, the project bleeds money.
You need project logistics specialists to coordinate with your team on the global shipping schedule and then, as containers hit the port, coordinate with the local construction site on the precise delivery schedule – what’s coming and at what time of the day.
On a global level, you might be supplying products for 30 simultaneous projects in different countries. Make sure you choose a provider of project logistics services that can monitor these global shipments to enable quick action in the event of disruptions.
For instance, let’s say a vessel misses its trans-shipment connection at a large port. The right partner will immediately flag this exception, link it to a specific project, and work with you on alternatives that prevent local installation delays.
Your partner needs to be reactive as well as proactive. If one of your customers runs short on a component, thereby threatening to halt the whole install project, you need 24/7 communication with your project logistics services partner to reroute product from elsewhere to address the issue. At Dimerco Express Group, it’s not unusual to have a dedicated team assigned to a customer with representatives in each continent.
2. Project Logistics Expertise
Logistics partners can have the raw capabilities to assist with complex logistics projects – global shipping, tracking, last mile delivery. But unless they’ve been tested under fire managing large-scale projects with time-definite deliveries, it’s buyer beware.
Below is a map showing all the countries where a major solar industry manufacturer has delivered products for infrastructure projects. At any given time, this company might be supplying 30 different projects around the world. As its freight forwarder, Dimerco would coordinate shipping for these green energy projects, monitor all shipments for exceptions, and provide daily reports to the customer.
Remember that these infrastructure projects are not one-size-fits-all; each project has its own custom, door-to-door delivery SOP that must be monitored and adhered to. It’s a level of complexity that could easily overwhelm a 3PL that does not have project logistics services as a core competency.
Check out this article on global project logistics for semiconductor projects for more insights into best-practice project logistics services.
The larger and more complex a shipping and logistics project, the more likely it is that problems and unusual circumstances will pop up. You need a logistics partner that can quickly adapt to solve problems on the fly.
- Due to heavy rains at a rural install site in central California, products from dozens of containers had to be stored at an emergency warehouse for two weeks. Dimerco located an abandoned onion processing building a mile from the install site and arranged last-mile delivery from there.
- For a biomass project in Colorado with key products coming down from Canada, Dimerco found a cross-border trucking partner that could transport giant cooling towers that were twice as tall as a farm silo.
Sometimes, project logistics work is like triage in a hospital emergency room, where you prioritize acute trauma patients over others. For example, an installation in the Atlanta area ran short of a critical component, threatening to halt the install. Working under the direction of its customer, Dimerco identified a container of that component on the water destined for a less urgent project. When the container hit the port in Long Beach, Dimerco arranged for immediate unloading and expedited shipment to Atlanta, avoiding a construction delay.
Support for World’s Second Largest Solar Farm Installation
Dimerco was the global shipping partner that supported the Villanueva Solar Park installation in Coahuila, Mexico which, in 2019, was the largest photovoltaic installation in Latin America and the second largest in the world. The park has 2.3 million solar panels.
Dimerco’s project logistics team managed shipment of 2,000 containers from China to Mexico and worked closely with a last-mile partner in Mexico to clear customs smoothly and complete time-defined, door-to-door deliveries.
Based on its success, the project earned the national logistics award in the 3PL/4PL Category from Mexico’s Ministry of Communication and Transportation.
4. Shipping Capabilities from Asia-Pac
For years, much of the equipment for solar and other renewable energy infrastructure projects have been sourced from China. That’s still largely the case, but it’s changing – particularly for U.S. projects. U.S. importers are now sourcing more from Thailand, Malaysia and other Asian countries to avoid hefty 301 tariffs. For that reason, it helps to work with a global 3PL with offices across Asia. Partners like Dimerco will have the local market know-how and freight capacity to seamlessly coordinate factory-to-customer shipping from Asia. When your freight forwarder has offices at both origin and destination, it negates the need for agents and enables shipment tracking on a single global system with tight communication between offices.
5. Dangerous Goods Shipping Experience
Lithium-ion batteries are the most popular form of solar panel batteries currently on the market. These batteries are considered dangerous goods (DG) from a shipping perspective and, therefore, require specialized packaging, labeling and storage – along with adherence to a long list of government regulations and carrier requirements.
When it comes to the time-definite shipping required for renewable energy infrastructure projects, you can’t afford delays related to improper paperwork for these highly regulated dangerous goods. You need to work with a 3PL that understands dangerous goods shipping and the operational and paperwork requirements to ship Li-ion batteries safely, on time and in full compliance.
Choose Partners Wisely for Renewable Energy Project Logistics Work
Rates for sea and air freight should be a key factor in any large-volume shipping project. But minor cost savings are dwarfed by the enormous financial risk inherent in a poorly managed renewable energy construction project. When choosing a shipping and logistics partner, choose experience.
Dimerco’s project logistics team has worked with major technology suppliers on more than 1,000 large-scale solar/renewable energy installations around the globe. Want to learn more about Dimerco’s project logistics services? Let’s start a discussion.