The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has awarded $2 million to support the development of technologies to harness stronger winds available at higher heights. The goal is to increase the amount of wind energy produced. The projects will take place in Iowa and Massachusetts and are aimed at reducing the cost of wind energy as well as expand the areas where wind energy can be successfully harnessed.
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, increasing the number of potential locations where wind farms can supply cost-effective power to American businesses and homeowners. While wind turbines installed in 2013 had an average height of 260 feet, the projects announced today will support new design and manufacturing techniques to produce towers nearly 400 feet tall.
Keystone Towers of Boston, Massachusetts will utilize its grant dollars to 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 percent lighter than standard turbine towers, which could lower the cost of energy by 10 percent.
The second grantee, 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 easily 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.