The first wind turbine tower manufactured using a spiral welding technique is now in commercial operation. Proponents of the new approach say it could revolutionize onshore wind deployment by offering onsite, modular assembly, eliminating costly transportation costs.
Keystone Power Systems and GE did not identify the customer or location of the wind farm.
Keystone Power Systems and GE collaborated to design the 89-meter tall tower for the GE 2.8-127 wind turbine. The Dept. of Energy provided $7 million to support the innovative effort.
The spiral-welding technique is borrowed from the steel-pipeline industry.
Spiral welding is when the steel used to make the tower is curled into a cylinder; essentially, these towers are built from meters-wide steel plates. The technique requires only one machine to construct a tower section, and it can produce towers up to twice as tall and 10 times faster than conventional towers, according to DOE.
These towers are produced using less steel, so they could be more affordable than conventional towers, too. They can even be manufactured on site at the wind farm, eliminating transportation issues.
The tower was manufactured at Keystone’s factory in Pampa, Texas, located in the Texas Panhandle. When at full capacity, the company said the factory will be capable of producing approximately 1 GW of towers per year.
While this first factory is in a fixed location, Keystone is also developing mobile factories capable of building taller towers directly at the wind site.
The spiral tower has received a component certification from TÜV NORD for a 40-year lifetime.
Keystone and GE have also collaborated on a tower design for the GE’s 3MW turbine platform and have signed a multi-year supply agreement for spiral towers from Keystone’s Pampa factory.