Sunday, January 20, 2013

Concrete Wind Towers: A Low-tech Innovation for a High-tech Sector

Exhibit 9 – Enercon’s precast concrete mobile factory in Gujarat, India

A wind tower is not the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about technological developments in wind energy, as its impact on system performance is very small. However, wind towers can represent more than 25% of the total WTG (Wind Turbine Generator) cost (Exhibit 2), which makes them a relevant area for cost optimization.

The ubiquitous steel tower already benefits from a level of steel manipulation and optimization far above those of most sectors, leaving limited room for improvement. The use of alternative materials, particularly concrete, seems to be a viable alternative for cost optimization (Exhibit 3). Two distinct designs are currently commercially available: full concrete designs, developed by companies such as Enercon (a German turbine manufacturer and systems integrator) and Inneo (a Spanish tower manufacturer); and hybrid systems (which combine a steel tower with a concrete pedestal), developed by companies such as ATS (a Dutch tower manufacturer) and Tindall (a US manufacturer of precast concrete products).

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