Grant Schmitz, a graduate student of civil, construction and environmental engineering, and Sri Sritharan, Iowa State’s Wilson Engineering Professor, are researching ways to see how using concrete panels and columns for wind turbines (instead of steel) can help the turbines adapt to the rising demand of wind energy.
Currently most turbines rise at 80 meters, however, replacing steel with concrete could provide a more practical and less expensive solution to raise the towers to 100 meters or taller. Increasing the height of turbines from 80 to 100 meters is beneficial for wind energy producers. Sritharan, who is also the leader of the College of Engineering‘s Wind Energy Initiative, said wind conditions at 100 meters are relatively calm and produce less turbulence than conditions where current wind turbines stand. Taller towers also allow for longer turbine blades, ultimately allowing an increase energy production by 15 percent, which is a win for wind energy producers.
After successfully creating three column-and-panel segments, Schmitz and Sritharan successfully tested the towers and found that concrete could handle 150,000 pounds of weight, which is 20% over what would normally be the extreme load at that height (100 meters).
“There is a lot of preparation for this,” Schmitz said. “It’s definitely a relief when you see it handling the capacity it has to meet.”
To learn more about the testing process and how the towers are designed, visit the Iowa State College of Engineering news article.
Source: Iowa State engineers design, test taller, high-strength concrete towers for wind turbines, Iowa State University College of Engineering