An Oregon cleantech company that developed a new concrete-saving, CO2-reducing foundation system for wind-turbine towers has been awarded the 2019 Merit Award from the Post-Tensioning Institute (PTI), based on the first installation of the foundation technology.
The industry-first modular wind-turbine tower base, developed by RUTE Foundation Systems with early support from climate impact accelerator VertueLab, cuts the amount of concrete needed by 75 percent over the life cycle of a wind farm. Because concrete contains cement, a material that generates large amounts of CO2 during production, the RUTE system also reduces CO2 emissions.
“Using our precast, segmental foundation at a single 60-tower wind farm would keep about 65 million pounds of CO2 out of the atmosphere,” said Doug Krause, CEO of RUTE Foundations. “This CO2 reduction is realized through lower concrete usage, a much longer lifecycle of our precast components and the fact new wind farms can come on line a month earlier because our foundations don’t have to cure.”
Traditional poured-in-place foundations require concrete footings that are 60 feet in diameter, weigh almost 2 million pounds and use 40 truckloads of concrete, or approximately 400 cubic yards. Curing that amount of concrete takes weeks before towers can be installed, and the life of the structure is less than half that of the RUTE foundation, which can last 60 years.
The precast, modular components in the RUTE system are made in beam manufacturing plants and use post-tensioning technology (a method of strengthening concrete with high-strength steel strands common in bridge construction).
The RUTE technology is entering the marketplace just as the wind farm industry is upgrading from 1.5-MW turbines to 3.5-plus-MW turbines, which require taller towers. The RUTE system is stronger than standard concrete, so wind farms can upgrade to larger towers without additional costs.
“The PTI recognition is huge for us,” said Jeff Colwill, RUTE’s vice president of Operations, who accepted the award at the annual Post-Tensioning Institute convention in Seattle. “Because RUTE can also manufacture the foundations locally, near the wind farms, our technology will also help create local jobs.”
The first RUTE 30BX Foundation was installed at Palmers Creek Wind Farm in Granite Falls, Minnesota, last November and supports a GE 2.5 MW turbine on a 295-foot (90 meter) tower hub height. RUTE partnered on the project with a team of engineering and construction firms, including Structural Technologies/VSL, RUTE’s post-tensioning partner based in Maryland.
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