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Could GE technology reduce heavy lift demand in wind farm construction?

February 14 - Last week's statement from GE that it has acquired new technology to help build taller wind turbine towers that produce more electricity could have an impact on heavy lift companies focusing on the installation work involved in wind farms.

GE has acquired space frame tower system technology, created by US firm Wind Tower Systems (WTS), which is designed for wind turbines with a hub height of 100 m or more.

WTS also has been developing ways to transport and install these taller wind turbine towers and claims its 'Hi Jack'system can eliminate the need for heavy lift cranes during installation.

The towers will be built with interlocking space frame struts, as opposed to traditional tubular parts, using a simple connection system to tackle traditional lattice tower problems such as bolt loosening and recurring bolt re-torquing.

WTS claims that the Hi Jack system reduces the costs of erecting and maintaining cranes by 80 percent, making more remote wind farm projects more financially viable.

The tower pieces and Hi Jack cranes can also be transported on a conventional flatbed truck rather than needing specialist tubular tower transporters.

"Taller towers are an essential complement to longer blades," said Victor Abate, vice president of renewable energy for GE Power & Water. "Longer blades capture more energy and in turn improve return on investment for wind farm developers."

Thomas Conroy, CEO of Wind Tower Systems, said: "The taller space frame towers and integrated lifting system concepts, developed with the support of the US Department of Energy and California Energy Commission, have been designed to drive lower wind energy costs."

GE plans to build a prototype space frame tower system to test its design later this year, and hopes it will be commercially available by 2012.

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