A Denver company has used construction technology used in the oil and gas industry to build larger, cheaper wind turbine towers faster, paving the way for the expansion of wind power on the east coast and offshore.
The Department of Energy has awarded Keystone tower systems Grants to support the development of equipment for the manufacture of its spiral-welded, conical wind towers. The company will open its first tower manufacturing facility in Pampa, Texas later this summer.
The company received a $ 800,000 grant from the in March National Consortium for Offshore Wind Research and Development, Established by the Department of Energy. The award fits President Joe Bidens plan to accelerate the development of the country’s offshore wind industry to reduce fossil fuel consumption and combat climate change.
In Denver, Keystone Tower will continue to manufacture the custom manufacturing equipment it uses to make its towers. The equipment will be mobile and allow the company to produce the much taller towers needed on the east coast and offshore but would be too big to be transported by truck.
“The US wind industry is almost entirely onshore today, a huge pipeline of projects is being developed and construction will begin on the East Coast in the years to come,” said Eric Smith, CEO and co-founder of Keystone Tower.
The key to opening up this market is to build taller towers to reach the high winds. The towers, which will be produced in Texas, will be the conventional height of about 260 feet to 328 feet and will be installed in Texas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico, where strong, steady winds at lower heights can be achieved in wide, open spaces
The company will use its technology to build towers roughly double that height, about 525 feet, for the southeast, where the stronger winds are higher, above the canopy and for offshore projects.
For both sizes, Keystone Tower will weld the steel in a spiral, similar to the core of a paper towel roll. Other towers are built by assembling steel profiles on top of each other. But Keystone’s bespoke rolling mill connects, rolls, and welds the steel to build the tower.
“It’s essentially a huge machine with steel going in on one side and towers popping out on the other,” said Smith.
Jocelyn Brown-Saracino, director of the Department of Energy’s offshore wind program, said the Keystone Tower adapted the construction used by the oil and gas industry and is an example of how the domestic offshore wind supply chain can be developed. Keystone has worked with scientists at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in the golden.
The Golden Lab produced a federal analysis showing that adding 30 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2030 would create enough electricity for 10 million households annually, 44,000 industrial jobs and nearly 33,000 additional community jobs.
Smith and co-founder Rosalind Takata started the company on a grant from the DOE. Smith studied mechanical and electrical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and taught wind turbine engineering at MIT.
“What the government is pushing here is really allowing us to scale fast and decarbonize the grid much faster, which is critical to climate change,” said Smith.
Keystone can make a tower section about ten times faster than the traditional process, Smith said. The base of a typical wind turbine tower is about 15 feet compared to a 30 foot base for the taller towers Keystone plans to begin production over the next several years.
Smith said the larger base makes the tower stronger and allows for thinner walls, saving about 250 tons of steel per tower and reducing costs. The hook is a tower that cannot be transported. Keystone will manufacture the towers at the project site with its mobile mill.
The company, which is expected to double its 50 employees by the end of the year, recently added a board member and employee with extensive experience in the manufacturing and wind industries.