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CEDAR RAPIDS - Acciona Windpower plans to introduce concrete wind turbine towers in the United States market, an innovation the company says should cut costs and boost the local economic impact of wind projects.
"The concrete tower will be a new product for the United States," said Joe Baker, CEO of Acciona Windpower, said on Tuesday. "It will allow us to bring more local jobs to the communities where wind projects are constructed."
Most wind turbine towers are now built of steel in three sections that are 250 to 300 feet long when bolted together on the installation site, according to Harold Prior, executive director of the Iowa Wind Energy Association. Transporting the 80 to 100-foot-long sections requires special trailers and logistics considerations, Prior said..
A new generation of larger wind turbines reaching the markets require even taller towers of 350 to 400 feet in height, Prior said, further adding to the challenge of building and transporting the large tower sections.
Baker said the concrete towers were developed by the tunnel division of Acciona's parent company in Spain, which has extensive expertise with high strength concrete structures. The company is already using the towers for some of its installations.
When a concrete tower is built, Baker said a portable concrete batch plant will typically be brought in to make the concrete for the towers on site.
Providing the materials for the concrete batch plant to use in making the concrete and building the towers will provide more local jobs, he said.
Iowans could be among the first to see the concrete towers in the United States.
Acciona Windpower is preparing to build a larger wind turbine, the three-megawatt AW3000/116, beginning next year at its plant in West Branch.
Two of the turbines will be installed at a location near Acciona's West Branch factory for reliability testing and to show potential customers, Baker said. One will be built on a concrete tower.
The AW3000/116 attracted attention recently from the renewable industry publication Recharge, which in May reported on the height advantage of the 120-meter all-concrete towers Acciona plans to offer. It said the higher tower height and an enormous 116-meter rotor would extend the reach of Acciona's new turbine across the North American market.
Prior said building wind towers on site from concrete may have other advantages beyond higher tower heights. Constructing the towers onsite may also reduce road wear and safety issues of transporting tower sections long distances, he said.