Olson Plumbing and Heating installs 21 miles of stainless pipe at wind turbine plant

Olson Plumbing and Heating installs 21 miles of stainless pipe at wind turbine plant

PUEBLO, COLO. — With alternative energy sources in high demand, Vestas Wind Systems, a Denmark-based energy company, made a substantial investment in 2009 by building North America’s largest wind turbine manufacturing facility here.

The plant was built between January 2009 and June 2009. Olson Plumbing and Heating of Colorado Springs, Colo., was selected to install the industrial gas and compressed air piping for the project. They had prior experience with Viega’s pressing technology on copper tubing installations.

Because of that success and the volatility of copper prices, it was decided that the Viega ProPress stainless system would be used for the Vestas installation. The system uses the patented Smart Connect feature, which is available only from Viega, allowing installers to easily spot unpressed connections during pressure testing.

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John Hill, superintendent of Olson Plumbing and Heating, oversaw the original installation, as well as the continuing retrofit projects at the plant.

“We were going to use orbital welding to connect the stainless pipe,” Hill explained. “We looked at different ways to install, but it really came down to man-hours. For welding, we were looking at 40 men on site and 20 in fabrication. That was one of the big concerns.

“By using the Viega ProPress stainless system, we were able to reduce the number to 24 guys on site and 20 in fabrication,” he continued. “Some of that reduction was due to the design and fabrication, but most of it was because of Viega ProPress stainless.”

After prefabricating some of the Viega ProPress stainless connections and piping at the Olson shop, the installation teams piped the 500,000-sq.ft. production area and a 50,000-sq.ft. internal area at the Vestas facility. Stainless steel pipe and fittings in sizes ranging from 1/2" to 4" were used in the installation. The teams installed 21 miles of stainless pipe over a five-month period.

“Using Viega ProPress instead of welding saved the company a lot of time,” stated Hill. “The Vestas project was completed within budget about three or four weeks ahead of schedule. Installing stainless pipe with Viega ProPress took a fraction of the time that butt-welding would have taken.”

According to data published by Olson, compared to welding, the time savings of Viega ProPress ranged from about 95% for 2-in. pipe to nearly 93% for 4-in. pipe.

Now that the plant is up and running, Olson Plumbing and Heating continues to handle retrofit and maintenance projects as required.

“Olson does 95% of the retrofit work at Vestas,” said Hill. “We’ve had at least two dozen retrofit projects there. We’re still at the facility today doing work such as adding compressed air lines. The Vestas plant is basically all Viega ProPress stainless. We’ve had a great history with Viega ProPress for copper. Olson was probably the first in the area to use Viega ProPress on commercial piping installations. The Vestas project was the first time we used it for stainless steel.

“Our estimate was mainly based on welding hours and costs,” continued Hill. “Our documents show a significant time and cost difference between a 3-in. orbital weld versus a 3-in. Viega ProPress connection.

“Vestas likes Viega ProPress because they can easily tie into the current piping with transition fittings,” said Hill. “Generally, when we leave a facility, the customer’s maintenance personnel buy their own pressing tools and make the Viega ProPress connections themselves. They just love it.”

Hill pointed out that another consideration for using Viega ProPress stainless is the high cost of copper.

“When copper rises to a certain price, it makes sense for us to use stainless steel,” said Hill. “The price of stainless is more stable, so we can lock in on it more easily. At Vestas, they’re trying to push using stainless now. It’s good-looking pipe and it’s durable. We get a lot of compliments.”