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Higher, Better Wind Turbine Research The U.S. Department of Energy forecasts wind power supplying 35 percent of the nation’s energy by 2050. With the second largest installed capacity, the United States is ranked first in the world in annual wind power production. However, the nation’s coastlines currently lag behind the Midwest in wind energy production, with many southeastern states having no wind energy potential at all.

BergerABAM has been involved in the development of tall, concrete wind turbine towers since 2004 and has been recognized in the precast concrete industry as a leader in concrete tower design. BergerABAM has supported the research team in foundation design and tower construction methodologies. The project team’s research was featured in Precast Concrete Institute’s PCI Journal, November-December 2015 edition. The article on wind turbine towers tackles the problem of finding a more cost-effective and sturdier solution than building taller steel towers whose fatigue and wear will result in having to be decommissioned after 20 to 25 years. The research team developed two options for the Hexcrete towers: one incorporating a steel tower (hybrid model) and the other made of concrete, which have many advantages including the following. • • •

• A constructed portion of the Hexcrete combination tower. Photo courtesy of Sri Sritharan.

To give these states the ability to generate more wind power, taller (328 to 459 feet high) wind turbine towers with larger blades need to be built to capture the faster and steadier winds at higher elevations. A multidisciplinary research team composed of scientists and engineers from Iowa State University; Siemens Corporation; Corslab Omaha; the National Renewable Energy Laboratory; and Markus Wernli, PhD, PE, and Miranda Hagadorn, PE, LEED AP, of BergerABAM, developed the concept of precast concrete Hexcrete hubs to create a more durable, taller wind turbine tower.

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Facilitate efficient on-site and off-site prefabrication Do not require specialized formwork Offer off-site prefabricated modules that can be tailored to avoid the need for specialized transportation that steel towers require Locally manufactured in United States precast concrete plants, whereas steel tubular towers often need to be produced overseas and shipped to the United States Offer increased versatility to elevate tower height Allow increased wind capture, decreasing the number of towers needed for the same amount of energy production, reducing capital and production costs Have twice the lifespan of steel towers

The research team recently secured grants and funding to develop and test these Hexcrete towers and advance the technology for commercial use. A section of the Hexcrete combination tower has been built and is now being tested. The next step will involve the design of a 459-foot-tall Hexcrete tower to support 2.3 and 3.2 megawatt turbines, and a commercialization plan will be developed to introduce the tower to the wind energy industry.

Profile for BergerABAM

Inside/Out Newsletter | Spring 2016 | Issue 61  

BergerABAM is a consulting firm offering services in the areas of planning, civil and structural engineering, architecture, environmental se...

Inside/Out Newsletter | Spring 2016 | Issue 61  

BergerABAM is a consulting firm offering services in the areas of planning, civil and structural engineering, architecture, environmental se...