Project Development, Wind Power

Wind Tower Technology Earns US$100,000 Grant

Utah based PYRAmatrix Structures, Inc. has received a SBIR Phase 1 award from the U.S. Department of Energy for the development of much taller, lighter weight and lower cost wind turbine towers to generate electricity using PYRAmatrix technology.

Salt Lake City, Utah – July 19, 2002 [] “PYRAmatrix is the world’s first advanced composite structure configured in a lattice geometry for superior strength. This makes PYRAmatrix the lightest, strongest, most efficient structure available…91 percent lighter than steel and 76 percent lighter than aluminum” said Jerral R. Pulley, Chairman of PYRAmatrix. PYRAmatrix, made from carbon fiber, fiberglass or a combination, utilizes unique geometric technology that optimizes the inherent strength of reinforcing pyramids and triangles, thereby requiring less high-cost fiber material. A 47-foot long PYRamatrix cylinder, 18 inches in diameter and weighing just 23 pounds can support almost 4 tons – or 350 times its own weight. To support the same weight, a steel cylinder in the same dimensions would weigh 1875 pounds and support only 4.3 times its own weight. “PYRAmatrix’ vastly lighter weight and ease of modular transport and assembly provides the ideal lower cost solution to the problem of erecting taller, greater capacity and more efficient wind turbine towers,” said Tracy Livingston, the PYRAmatrix Chief Technology Officer. “Towers of 5 MW capacity built with PYRAmatrix technology can reduce total tower costs by 53 percent vs. a steel tower of the same size and capacity. This large reduction in tower cost decreases the cost of energy vs. conventional steel towers. In fact, the energy cost from large wind turbines using PYRAmatrix technology approaches that from environmentally dirty non-renewable coal-fired power plants.” “Wind turbine tower costs rise exponentially with tower height due to the extremely high costs of transportation and installation. For example, a 282 foot 1.5 MW tubular steel tower costs about $382,000 whereas a 511 foot 5.0 MW tower exceeds $3 million,” said Livingston. “This precludes steel as the solution for the taller and higher MW capacity towers needed to 1) access stronger winds at greater heights and 2) accommodate the much longer rotor blade lengths of these larger turbines.” Interestingly, steel towers to support 5 MW capacity installations weigh over one million pounds. These towers are so large and heavy as to be impractical and uneconomical for land transport, relegating them to offshore barge transported locations. In contrast, the 5 MW capacity PYRAmatrix tower would weigh only 30,000-pounds and, due to its modularity, be infinitely easier and cheaper to transport and assemble. By using a PYRAmatrix tower, wind operators can now place these larger, more efficient wind turbines on land near the communities where the power is needed most. The grant will initially focus on the development of 1.5 MW towers before proceeding with work on 5 MW systems. According to an initial company study and data obtained from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the WindPACT study, the transportation, assembly, and manufacturing costs for 1.5 MW towers will be reduced 37 percent from an average of US$382,000 down to US$240,000 with a resulting weight savings greater than 96 percent. PYRAmatrix also has great design flexibility and can be made from virtually any combination of off-the shelf fiber and resin materials (including fibers with extremely high temperature tolerance), in products from 3 inches to more than 20 feet in diameter and in lengths over 300 feet. Configuration options include round, oval, tapered or box.