Grant Schmitz, eyes inches from a 6.5-by-12-foot panel of ultra-high performance concrete, studied the smooth surface for tiny cracks.

He and other research engineers carefully marked every one with black markers.

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Schmitz, an Iowa State graduate student of civil, construction and environmental engineering, and Sri Sritharan, Iowa State’s Wilson Engineering Professor and leader of the ‘s College of Engineering’s Wind Energy Initiative, were trying to answer some basic questions about using concrete panels and columns to build wind turbine towers using prefabricated, easily transportable components.

Could assembled concrete towers be a viable alternative to the steel towers now used for wind turbines? Could concrete towers be a practical way to raise turbine towers from today’s 80 meters to the steadier winds at 100 meters and taller? Which of three ways to connect the columns and panels works best for wind turbine towers?

“We have definitely reached the limits of steel towers,” Sritharan said. “Increasing the steel tower by 20 meters will require significant cost increases and thus the wind energy industry is starting to say, ‘Why don’t we go to concrete?'”

For more on this story: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130515094800.htm

Source: Science Daily / University of Toronto

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