Workshop to present commercial viability of ‘Hexcrete’ idea for taller wind turbine towers

Illustration of Hexcrete technology for taller wind turbine towers

Iowa State engineers have developed Hexcrete technology for taller wind turbine towers. Taller towers would give energy companies access to the stronger, steadier winds above 100 meters. Larger image. Illustration courtesy of Sri Sritharan.

AMES, Iowa – Iowa State University engineers will explain their “Hexcrete” concept of using precast concrete technology to build taller wind turbine towers during a commercialization workshop in late June.

There will be an opening reception 6:30 to 8 p.m. on June 22 and the full workshop will be 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on June 23. The events are at the Crowne Plaza Denver Airport Convention Center. Register online here.

“The workshop allows wind farm developers, turbine manufacturers, contractors, the concrete industry and financial investors to understand the potential of a new tower technology that will make wind energy production cost effective in all 50 states,” said Sri Sritharan, Iowa State University’s Wilson Engineering Professor in Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering and leader of the Hexcrete project. “The workshop will also provide potential partners with an opportunity to participate in prototype construction of a Hexcrete tower.”

The workshop program includes keynote presentations by Megan McCluer, a senior advisor for the Wind and Water Power Technologies Office of the U.S. Department of Energy; and Eric Lantz, an energy analyst for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

The workshop will also feature presentations about the Hexcrete concept, the benefits of accessing stronger winds with taller towers, opportunities for prototyping the towers and the commercial viability of the technology.

The Hexcrete concept features precast panels and columns made from high-strength and ultra-high-performance concrete. The columns and panels are tied together by cables to form hexagon-shaped cells that can be stacked vertically to form towers as tall as 140 meters.

Sritharan said Hexcrete towers have many advantages over today’s steel towers:

  • The precast concrete pieces can be easily transported and assembled on site.
  • The technology engages precast concrete companies – an established American industry – in the wind energy business.
  • Concrete towers can reach beyond today’s standard of 80 meters, providing energy companies with access to the faster and steadier winds at 100 meters and higher.
  • Taller towers allow wind energy harvesting in regions of the country where energy demand is high and favorable winds are only above 100 meters.
  • And, Hexcrete helps reduce the cost of wind energy by cutting the production and transportation costs of towers.

Sritharan has been developing the technology since 2010. The early work was supported by a grant from the Grow Iowa Values Fund, a state economic development program that supported projects with the potential to grow the state’s economy.

Current research is supported by an 18-month, $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, a grant of $83,500 from the Iowa Energy Center and $22,500 of in-kind contributions from Lafarge North America Inc. of Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

The project’s partners include the Siemens Corp.’s Corporate Technology center in Princeton, New Jersey; Coreslab Structures (OMAHA) Inc. of Bellevue, Nebraska; and BergerABAM of Federal Way, Washington. A number of other wind energy companies have also provided in-kind support for the project.

“Now our goal is to build a full-scale tower in the field,” Sritharan said. “The Denver workshop will allow us to share our latest research results and commercialization plans. We invite potential partners to join us and learn more about the benefits of taller towers and our Hexcrete technology.”