- A researcher at Iowa State University says he may have found a way to make wind generation more powerful and consistent. Sri Sritharan is exploring constructing taller wind turbine towers from high-strength concrete, rather than steel, according to Midwest Energy News.
- Supported by a $1 million grant from the Department of Energy, the designs could make wind production more efficient. The new construction materials are precast and easily-transportable components to build hexagon-shaped towers from concrete panels connected to concrete columns.
- The concrete towers can reach beyond 80 meters, and the goal is to provide energy companies with access to the faster and steadier winds at 100 meters and higher. Conventional steel turbines cannot currently be built that tall because they cannot be transported by truck.
The Department of Energy funded Iowa State's research along with a project in Massachusetts, both of which are looking to advance technologies to harness stronger winds available at higher heights.
"Through innovative construction processes that will cost-effectively manufacture taller wind turbine towers, 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," DOE said.
Sri Sritharan is Iowa State's Wilson Engineering Professor in Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering, and leader of the College of Engineering’s Wind Energy Initiative. “I think this will revolutionize wind energy,” he said. “We won’t need to transport these big tubular towers on the highways and we’ll harvest energy where it’s needed.”
Midwest Energy News spoke with Mike Prior, executive director of the Iowa Wind Energy Association, who said “turbine manufacturers for a long time have had aspirations of going to taller turbines, because the wind resource [higher up] is more consistent."
The current 80-meter steel wind towers are transported to construction sites on costly, specially made trucks, reports Midwest Energy News. They cannot get taller, according to Siritharan, because the size of the base would grow too large for travel. Concrete designs, he says, can mitigate this because they are modular and can be transported in smaller parts.