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    B&K Auto Salvage and Recycling now processing old parts from wind farm turbines in Arlington


    September 22, 2022 - Dick Mason, The Observer, La Grande, Ore.

     

      Sep. 21—By DICK MASON —The Observer

      LA GRANDE — Winds of change are turning heads and generating excitement at B&K Auto Salvage and Recycling of La Grande.

      The gusts are blowing in from wind farms in Arlington, 125 miles to the west, in the form of semi-trucks carrying parts from wind turbines that have been shut down due to declining condition after decades of use.

      B&K has been contracted with a wind farm-related organization to cut up wind turbine parts and send the metal to Portland for recycling.

      Cutting up the wind turbine parts, which consist of gearboxes, main shafts and blade hubs, is anything but a breeze because of their size, according to Danny Huddleston, the recycling manager at B&K.

      "The gearboxes weigh 45,000 pounds, and the main shafts and the blade hubs weigh 50,000 pounds," he said.

      The metal wind turbine parts are being cut with acetylene torches by a crew working for B&K from Premier Scrap Processing.

      The auto salvage business began receiving shipments from wind farms in the Arlington area on Thursday, Sept. 1. B&K has received 141 shipments from semi-trucks as of Sept. 20.

      "We usually get 10 to 14 shipments a day," Huddleston said.

      On some occasions as many as three semi-trucks have arrived at B&K almost at the same time, causing passing motorists to do double takes. Huddleston said he enjoys explaining to these people what is happening.

      "This is definitely turning heads. People will say, 'What is happening?' It is nuts," he said. "It is pretty neat to get stop-ins like this."

      Each truck carries only a gearbox, a main shaft or a blade hub. Truckers cannot transport more than one item, Huddleston said, because of state and federal weight laws.

      Once a truck arrives at B&K, a crane with a hook lifts the turbine part out and lowers it to the ground.

      B&K is never sent the aging blades of old wind turbines because they are made of balsa wood, something the La Grande company does not handle, Huddleston said.

      The gearboxes, main shafts and blade hubs B&K receives are all 20-25 years old. Huddleston said that when the wind turbines were installed many people believed they would last about 15 years. Their longevity was probably underrated, he said, because there were a lot of unknowns 25 years ago.

      "It was not known how much the turbines would be turning," he said.

      To create room for the wind turbine parts, the company removed about 100 automobiles from its storage yard. They were crushed and then sent out so the metal could be recycled.

      B&K, owned by Jake Hanson, is working with Vemco Crane Service, United Hauling and United Metals to help wind turbine parts get recycled. It will be receiving shipments of wind turbine parts for at least another two weeks.

      Huddleston said B&K's goal is to have all of the metal for the wind turbine parts cut up before winter hits because it is harder to work then. One of the biggest challenges winter poses is the deep snow and mud it creates, which makes it easy to lose things that do not turn up again until the spring.

      The wind turbine metal parts B&K is cutting up are being sent to Schnitzer Steel in Portland. Huddleston said the metal will eventually be melted down after leaving La Grande as part of the recycling process.

      B&K, since Sept.1, has sent two truckloads carrying 60,000-68,000 pounds of cut-up wind turbine metal to Schnitzer Steel.

      Huddleston hopes that B&K can continue to help recycle metal from old wind turbines in the future.

      "It is work. This keeps everybody busy," he said.

      Huddleston added that working with the wind farm industry is proving to be a delightful and illuminating experience.

      "It has been fascinating," he said.

      Dick Mason is a reporter with The Observer. Contact him at 541-624-6016 or dmason@lagrandeobserver.com.

      ___

      (c)2022 The Observer (La Grande, Ore.)

      Visit The Observer (La Grande, Ore.) at www.lagrandeobserver.com

      Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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