Offshore Wind Energy Towards a Concrete Future

Written by:
Virginio Paratico, Area Sales Manager Faccin Group

The hunger for alternative energy is constantly growing and will eventually overtake traditional methods of generating energy. From all the different ways of producing renewable energy, wind power is taking the lead because it demonstrates without a doubt to be the most promising one in terms of energy generation capacity and the amount of capital invested. To meet this growing demand, wind tower manufacturers are being put to the test by relentlessly building higher and stiffer towers to maximize the energy output while keeping maintenance costs to a minimum.

The advantage of having taller wind turbines is the exposure to higher average wind speeds, which consequently require a more constant wind profile over the height of the rotor and larger blades. The race for harnessing the most power from wind energy is bringing some manufacturers to a path of alternative materials like concrete.

Concrete has already been in use for many centuries, so why haven’t manufacturers started earlier to use this material?

Conventional steel towers are limited by various factors when it comes to height. In the past, the hurdle of using concrete was the huge load and stress applied to a material that was not yet ready to be used under such an extreme environment. However, this barrier has been surpassed by modern processing and installation methods developed over decades. Costs play a vital role when it comes to renewable energy, and this alternative way of making wind towers can produce designs with overall costs that are the same or even lower than those of steel towers. There are already several wind farms around the world using this alternative in Chile, Denmark, and there are upcoming new projects in Spain and the UK.

Concrete tower: Faccin
Concrete tower. Photo: Faccin

The investor can get a very quick return on investment because of the high energy output of a tall wind tower and the low cost of the material. There is also a very low cost for maintenance thanks to its natural durability, very capable of maintaining its properties under extreme conditions.
When the wind tower is no longer in use, the concrete can be very easily recycled and used for other engineering projects.

How does this influence investments and constructability?

A significant amount of investment for offshore wind tower projects is largely associated with the installation operations and the perceived risk of unpredictable environmental risks during the process. Thanks to the concrete’s versatility, the techniques applied for the construction can be easily tailored to overcome structural constraints. Individual precast units can be dimensioned to become easily stackable sections transported on a vessel.

With the use of flat-top barges, it is possible to carry the concrete gravity foundation as a deck cargo out to sea followed by tower installation vessels carrying pylon sections, for particularly high pylons over 90m, delivery, and assembly of concrete pylons in three sections is achievable using already existing lifting plants. In the case of areas where floating ice sheets can cause damage, the gravity foundation can be characterized by an Egg cup-shape designed to protect the structure.

What can a metal forming machine manufacturer like FACCIN contribute to these projects?

For steel-based or hybrid structures, we can offer plate rolls with a wide working width for metal plates (high demand for offshore foundations) and able to bend a wide range of thicknesses and material. Steel based towers will still be used in the future, but most likely when it comes to wind tower projects in which new heights need to be achieved, investors might be more oriented towards a concrete or hybrid (concrete-steel) solution. We will continue providing the best solutions on the market for high precision plate rolls to make wind towers and offshore foundations.

Plate Roll Wind Tower 4HEL Series. Photo: Faccin
Plate Roll Wind Tower 4HEL Series. Photo: Faccin

As for concrete based onshore and offshore wind towers, we understand that to produce such a large amount of concrete in a short range of time, concrete manufacturers must consider bigger production capacities, this means bigger mixing plants, treatment plant, and excavators with higher capacity or mixer truck in the case of in-situ concrete.

Faccin has a long experience in supplying plate rolls for offshore/onshore wind towers industry, earth moving equipment manufacturers, and concrete mixing plants. We are sure that no matter what direction the wind energy will move, we will always be committed to helping realize the next project.

The Company

“Faccin is proud to have already supplied machines to the main players in Europe, USA and ASIA and to contribute to the green energy production. The company strongly believes in the future of the wind towers business onshore -particularly the offshore wind farms where the use of plate bending rolls is essential.”

Learn more about us and discover our latest developments by visiting: www.faccin.com

Wind Tower

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Photo: Offshore wind energy production: Faccin

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