Grant Tackles Wind Project Tower Costs

As wind turbines gain in size and capacity, they become more cost effective as power plants. At the same time, however, the freight costs associated with transportation of the components — particularly the towers — and the necessity for specialized cranes become a considerable part of a project’s financial equation. A recent grant from the California Energy Commission (CEC) will help test new turbine tower materials and erection methods that could revolutionize the wind energy industry.

The CEC has awarded one of three grants for its low-wind-speed solicitation to Windtower Composites (WT) in partnership with SeaWest WindPower. The solicitation was issued under the name of “Expanded Wind Regime Turbine Technology and Intermittency Management Demonstration.” WindTower Composites, a Heber City, Utah, company, received US $1.5 million to demonstrate its composite wind turbine tower at a site in California in December 2005. The Altamont pass site, owned by SeaWest, was selected for demonstration of expanded wind resources at greater heights using a new tower technology. Previously, WT received two consecutive grants from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) for $850,000 to develop, engineer, and test the components of an 80-meter, 1.5-MW lightweight wind turbine tower that uses a unique space frame geometry of carbon composite tubes. DOE funding also supported the engineering of a crane-less elevator lifting system for installation of the turbine and blades. Final 65-meter and preliminary 125-meter tower designs, along with subscale testing, have been completed with help from Brigham Young University and Southern Utah University. Full-scale tube manufacturing as well as ultimate and fatigue testing at Brigham Young will begin in late winter and is scheduled for completion in June. The CEC grant money will be used to offset some of the remaining costs to manufacture the crane-less elevator lifting system. WT will then use 50 percent matching funds in partnership with SeaWest to purchase the 1.5-MW wind turbine to be used for testing and certification of a 65-meter tower at the California test site. The company said the 65-meter demonstration is one step toward certification of a 125-meter tower for the 1.5-MW turbine, expected in 2006. “At standard heights, the lower weight, on-site assembly, and crane-less installation will enable small projects as well as logistically difficult sites, such as ridge tops, islands, and other remote areas lacking road and crane access, while the taller 125-meter tower is unique in its ability to capture more wind at greater heights at low cost” said Tracy Livingston, WT president. Livingston said this will enable the development of Class 3 wind sites, which historically have been uneconomical to develop. Many areas are known to have a vast number of Class 3 wind sites that could be economically developed with this new technology. According to the company, the taller tower is expected to demonstrate a reduction in costs of energy. Wasatch Wind, an affiliate of WT, also plans to incorporate the space frame tower when it builds a small community owned wind farm in Spanish Fork Canyon, Utah. Currently, Wasatch Wind is engaged in the permitting process with Spanish Fork City and has installed an 82-meter meteorological tower to verify the wind speeds. WT will use the Spanish Fork site to further demonstrate the composite tower with the goal of obtaining certification from Underwriters Laboratories (UL) so that it can sell the towers to turbine manufacturers and other third parties. Once certification is completed, WT said that it plans to build a manufacturing plant for the turbine towers in rural Utah in 2006. Information Courtesy of the American Wind Energy Association
Previous articleEPA Pushes to 220 Million kWh of Renewable Energy
Next articleCollege Expands Solar Energy Legacy

No posts to display