Friends in High Places: “Space Frame” Wind Tower Takes Renewables to Tough Locations

March 10, 2014

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Engineers at GE’s wind power unit developed a new 450-foot tall “space frame” tower that could allow wind farm operators to build turbines in places that were previously inaccessible.

Instead of traditional steel tube towers, the new design is using metal latticework wrapped in a fiberglass coat. The lattice girders can be loaded inside shipping containers and onto ordinary trucks, and bolted together at the final destination. This makes logistics and transportation easier (see time-lapse video).

GE erected a prototype of the tower at a testing site in Tehachapi, CA. It supports a rotor the size of the London Eye (almost 400 feet in diameter) and a massive new 2.75 megawatt turbine.

The tower stands on five legs that provide wider support and more balance than the traditional tubular tower. The weather resistant shield is strong enough to last for the lifetime of the structure.

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The new design is using metal latticework wrapped in a fiberglass coat.

"The space frame tower helps our customers go taller in new locations, further enabling the growth of wind energy," said Cliff Harris, general manager of GE’s Renewable Energy business in Europe. "This next innovation in wind turbine technology is a stepping stone towards towers taller than 150 meters in Europe."

GE unveiled the tower at the annual European Wind Energy Association conference held in Barcelona this week.

GE has been involved with the latest as well as the earliest wind turbines. In 1887, Charles F. Brush built the first power generating wind turbine in Cleveland, Ohio. It was a 4-ton, 60-foot monster with 144 blades and a long, comet-like tail. It generated just 12 kilowatts of electricity – enough supply no more than three modern American homes. Brush later merged his electric company with Thomas Edison’s GE.

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