BY SARAH PROTZMAN HOWLETT
Workers lift parts while installing the wind turbines at the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France.
PHOTO COURTESY OF UGE INTERNATIONAL LTD
for its signature silhouette, the Eiffel Tower is synonymous with the city of Paris, France. When a renovation project required two wind turbines to be added within the landmark's frame, project managers were able to install them while keeping the tower's iconic figure intact.
The turbines were painted to match the tower's iconic scaffolding.
PHOTO COURTESY OF ©SETE- PHOTOPOINTCOM
UGE installed VisionAir5 wind turbines.
And that wasn't the only unique project accomplishment. Stakeholders from the Société d‘Exploitation de la Tour Eiffel (SETE) and the office of the Mayor of Paris also made it clear that the turbines couldn't be lifted with cranes, which could damage the 126-year-old tower. In addition, the project needed to accommodate the flow of revenue-generating tourists during business hours. This meant the team needed to find ways to do the most intrusive work at night—without disturbing residential neighbors.
The project, which was completed in February, was part of a two-year, €30 million renovation that was also charged with adding LED lighting and solar panels to the first floor of the tower. The turbines were required to generate only enough energy to power the tower's first-floor commercial areas, which include a restaurant, a gift shop and a historical exhibit. Although the total is less than 1 percent of the overall energy that the tower consumes in a year, it helps nudge Paris toward a citywide goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 25 percent by 2020 and 75 percent by 2050.
The project was part of multiple green initiatives in France less than a year before Paris is scheduled to host the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in November and December. For instance, in March, France introduced a law that requires plants or solar panels to be installed on the rooftops of new buildings in commercial zones.
“Not many people are able to work on this kind of turbine,” says Sébastien Reinier, project manager, SETE, Paris, France. “That's why it took us more time than we expected, but finally it works perfectly and we are all satisfied. French people are often cautious concerning new projects, but the latest press coverage about our turbines seemed very positive.”
For the wind turbine installation project, stakeholders turned to green energy company UGE International, based in New York, New York, USA. UGE helped determine the right location, style and color for the turbines, then developed overnight work shifts so that equipment and materials could be manually lifted 122 meters (400 feet) above ground where the two five-meter (16-foot) turbines were installed. Components that wouldn't fit in the service elevators were brought up by pulley and rope at night rather than by crane.
“Not many people are able to work on this kind of turbine. That's why it took us more time than we expected.”
—Sébastien Reinier, project manager, SETE, Paris, France
“We've done over 2,000 installations worldwide, and we've never had to deal with not being able to use cranes,” says Jan Gromadzki, senior product manager, UGE, New York, New York, USA.
Despite the unique challenges, the team was able to install the vertical-axis wind turbines inside metal scaffolding above the tower's second level.
“It was very hard to model the entire assembly in the existing tower,” Mr. Gromadzki says. “There have been so many additions over the years—electrical equipment and HVAC, for example—but it turned out okay.”
“We've done over 2,000 installations worldwide, and we've never had to deal with not being able to use cranes.”
—Jan Gromadzki, UGE, New York, New York, USA
WITHOUT A TRACE
Tourist expectations also played a major role in defining UGE's project plan. Seven million people visit the Eiffel Tower each year—and stakeholders didn't want a single one to be turned away during construction. The attraction is open to the public until 11 p.m. or midnight, depending on the time of year, and the team needed to make its presence as unobtrusive as possible. Although workers could be operating on the tower during the day, major equipment had to be hauled to the area and up the installation site only after the tower was closed.
“Working at night was planned into the budget, since the Eiffel Tower already does most of its tough-access work at night,” Mr. Gromadzki says. “Night work is obviously more expensive, but as long as it's in the budget and the timelines are not exceeded—and they were not in this case—it doesn't affect expectations.”
Stakeholders were also concerned the turbines would cause disruptive vibrations because they were mounted right above one of Paris’ classiest restaurants, which is located on the second level of the tower.
To mitigate the possibility of loud or odd vibrations from the turbines during strong winds, UGE added damper pads in the structure's steel foundation. “Now the turbines are as quiet as a whisper,” Mr. Gromadzki says.
To mitigate the project's impact on tourists during the day, workers hauled major equipment up the tower only at night.
Some installation workers were part of teams that painted the tower in the past.
However, Mr. Reinier says there was no requirement to install the turbines in such a way to hide them from the view of tourists—quite the opposite, actually. “We explained to the administration that the turbines had to be seen from the ground, because we have no reason to hide it,” he says. “Turbines mean technical and environmental progress.”
Mr. Gromadzki, who is fluent in French, largely oversaw the project from his New York office. To avoid budget creep, he reviewed the project status every two weeks at first, and then he reviewed it weekly during the final three months—often with other team members. After a site visit in early 2014, which included a general meeting with all stakeholders, Mr. Gromadzki flew to Paris in mid-January 2015, spending two weeks on-site to oversee the installations.
During the initial planning phases, Mr. Gromadzki says UGE spent hours in phone meetings with tower and construction officials fielding questions about how the turbines—and the installation process—would work. Because very few wind turbines are constructed in Paris, it took time for the stakeholders to understand and approve the logistics.
“We had a lot of calls where we'd just talk about the technology,” Mr. Gromadzki says. The project team also needed to collaborate with safety inspectors—consultants who made sure the installation was built to code and per the plan—plus general contractors and subcontractors.
These partnerships also helped UGE hire project talent with specialized skills. For instance, when UGE needed to hire installation workers who could navigate hard-to-access spaces, local contacts recommended specialized technical teams, including some who had been part of teams that painted the tower in the past, Mr. Gromadzki says.
Overall, careful planning allowed the team to stay on schedule—and on budget. The only piece of the project that incurred additional costs was the electrical work. Because the French electrical contractors had no experience working with wind turbines, they needed to bill for extra time while UGE taught them where to tie the turbines into the Eiffel Tower's electrical grid. Nonetheless, the entire project stayed within 10 percent of its original cost, Mr. Reinier says.
“It was all done really efficiently to keep the costs as low as possible,” Mr. Gromadzki says. “Everything pretty much went as planned once all materials were on-site, and many things could have brought us to a halt—but nothing really did.”
In the end, the team delivered everything the stakeholders required while staying within project constraints, Mr. Reinier says.
“The project's execution happened exactly how it was scheduled,” he says. PM
- Late 2013: Environmental consultants from the Eiffel Tower contact UGE about the project.
- January 2014: UGE makes first site visit.
- January-September 2014: UGE analyzes wind direction and power to determine where turbine installation would deliver maximum benefits.
- March-October 2014: Engineering site analysis allows project managers to determine structural and electrical design.
- October-December 2014: Structural and electrical designs finalized; installation logistics planned; wind turbines and materials shipped to tower.
- January-February 2015: Wind turbines installed and operation tests completed.
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