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Supporting Wind Turbines Cost-effectively at Hub Heights of over 80 Metres

Sri-Figure1Wind energy production at the utility scale has commonly been limited to an 80-metre tall hub height in the USA and elsewhere. Strangely enough, this limitation comes from transportation constraints and how the 80-metre-tall steel tubular towers are manufactured and transported. If transportation always controlled how tall we build our infrastructures, urban cities around the world would look completely different today. Transportation capabilities by no means should constraint the evolution of structures; otherwise, the kilometre-plus-high Kingdom Tower under construction in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, could only be a dream. It is no surprise that studies have shown that as wind turbine towers get taller, a concrete solution may become more cost-effective than the steel tubular option. So, why are we not routinely building concrete towers to reach taller hub heights? How do we get there?

By Sri Sritharan, Wilson Engineering Professor, Department of Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering, Iowa State University, USA

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