Taller Wind Turbine Towers Receive DOE FundingSeptember 23, 2014
The Energy Department on Sept. 18 awarded $2 million for two organizations that will advance technologies to harness stronger winds available at higher heights, potentially increasing the amount of clean, renewable electricity the nation produces.
Through construction processes that will manufacture taller wind turbine towers, the Energy Department says these projects in Iowa and Massachusetts will help reduce the cost of wind energy and expand the geographic areas where wind turbines can successfully be deployed in the United States.
In the northeastern, southeastern and western United States, winds near the ground are often slower and more turbulent, reducing the amount of electricity installed turbines can generate. Taller wind turbines capture the stronger, more consistent winds available at elevated heights. This increases the number of potential locations where wind farms can supply cost-effective power.
Wind turbines installed in 2013 had an average height of 260 feet. The recently funded projects will support design and manufacturing techniques to produce towers nearly 400 feet tall.
Keystone Towers of Boston, Mass., will implement an on-site spiral welding system that will enable turbine towers to be produced directly at or near the installation site, freeing projects of transportation constraints that often limit turbine height. Adapted from an in-field welding process used by the pipe manufacturing industry, Keystone’s spiral welding technique can be scaled up to produce large-diameter steel towers that they report will be 40% lighter than standard turbine towers. This could lower the cost of energy by 10%.
Iowa State University will develop a hexagonal-shaped tower that combines high-strength concrete with pre-stressed steel reinforcements to assemble individual tower modules and wall segments that can be transported and joined together on-site. Due to the modular design, thicker towers capable of supporting turbines at increased heights can be produced at a reduced cost.