Problems with steel support towers

The production of steel turbine towers is energy/CO2-intensive

One of the wind energy industry’s greatest environmental challenges is that turbine support towers have typically been made from rolled steel – the production of which is a very energy/carbon intensive process. According to an October 2010 case study on wind energy by WorldSteel, the wind energy industry already consumes 700,000 tons of steel per year (click here for full report).

The same report also concluded that up to nine months of the environmental benefits from switching to wind electricity generation are lost due to the negative impact of producing steel towers. A typical 80-metre tower for a 3 MW turbine requires upwards of 200 tons of steel. This substantially delays the net environmental benefits of switching to wind energy. A more sustainable alternative to steel towers would eliminate this erosion of benefits.

Logistical problems in transporting steel towers

Steel support towers are also plagued with logistical issues. The base of a support tower can be up to 6 metres in diameter, far beyond the 2.6 metre width allowed for standard road transport according to BC’s Commercial Transport Regulations. As a result, special equipment, special permits, pilot vehicles and other preparations must be made for dealing with underpasses, power lines, narrow passes and uneven roadways. The eleven-axle trucks required for moving tower sections have turning radii of at least 45 metres. Since access to many of BC best wind sites is via resource roads, these often need to be upgraded to accommodate such large, heavy loads.
The transport of steel turbine towers is an expensive, time-consuming, and cumbersome process