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Energy Department Announces $2 Million to Support Manufacturing of Taller Wind Turbine Towers

September 18, 2014 - 10:38am

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The Energy Department today announced $2 million for two organizations that will advance technologies to harness stronger winds available at higher heights, potentially increasing the amount of clean, renewable electricity the nation produces.

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.

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 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.

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.

Improving the manufacturing process for taller wind turbine towers supports the Energy Department's broader Clean Energy Manufacturing Initiative, which aims to increase American competitiveness in the production of clean energy products and boost U.S. manufacturing competitiveness across the board by increasing energy productivity.

The Department’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy accelerates development and facilitates deployment of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies and market-based solutions that strengthen U.S. energy security, environmental quality, and economic vitality. For more information on wind power research, development, testing, and deployment see the EERE Wind Program’s Manufacturing Research and Development webpage.

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