How to Build the Tallest Wind Turbine in America

June 9, 2016 | Comments

If you’ve ever wanted to see a wind turbine being constructed, this is for you: a video of the tallest land-based wind turbine ever built in the United States.

The wind turbine is one of 64 located on a 154-megawatt wind farm in Adam County, Iowa. The wind turbine stretches 379 feet (115.5 m) from ground to hub and 557 feet (170 m) with blades extended, higher than the Washington Monument.

Construction of the tower began in August 2015 and according to MidAmerican Energy, the company behind the scenes, every minute of the process was captured.

Among the recording devices were two pole-mounted cameras to capture distance shots, showing the staggering size of equipment needed. Cameras were also located near the ground to provided close-ups of workers installing the foundation and bending steel rebar to construct the tower segments. Action cameras were mounted on equipment to show the inside of the tower.

The final product was six terabytes of footage shot over 31 weeks, edited down to a time-lapse video of just five and a half minutes.


Tall Wind Turbines in the United States

It is well-known in the wind energy sector that the higher turbines are, the more wind energy is captured. While 557 feet (170 m) may seem tall, wind turbines in Europe well exceed that height. For example, the V164, the most powerful wind turbine in the world, was first installed at the Danish National Test Centre in early 2014 and reaches a total height of 722 feet (220 m).

The V164 produces 8 MW, dwarfing MidAmerican Energy’s turbine which can provide 2.4 MW of energy. While achieving energy efficiency is the goal, MidAmerican Energy’s turbine was built more as a pilot project than anything else.

The United States faces a key challenge when it comes to constructing wind turbines of enormous height: transporting the components. As one looks down at the base of these monstrosities, it is clear that it is also huge. The video states that the circumference of one of the bottom segments is approximately 72 feet (22 m) in circumference, translating to a diameter of 23 feet (7 m).

The conventional method of building wind towers is to manufacture the base components from steel and then transport them via interstate to wind farms where they are assembled. Realistically, though, it isn’t so easy to truck a 7-m-wide disk on a highway.

Schleswig Holstein, Germany - April 05, 2014: Wind energy company heavy transport Wind turbine transportation

A base component of a wind energy turbine is transported in Schleswig Holstein, Germany.

As a new approach to this problem, MidAmerican Energy built its wind turbine with concrete, a modular construction material that won’t require manufacturing elsewhere.

“Building a concrete tower is an entirely different process from the one we use to build steel tower turbines,” said Mike Gehringer, vice president of renewable energy at MidAmerican Energy.

“Instead of manufacturing tower sections in a factory and transporting them to the site to be fitted together, crews pour the concrete in segments and erect the tower onsite. It’s fascinating to watch it all come together in this video.”

For more information, check out the MidAmerican Energy website.


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