Harnessing the power of the wind goes back thousands of years, with the sails of boats likely to have been the first instance. Windmills and other wind-powered machines followed until, in 1889, the world’s very first electricity-producing windmill was created by Scottish Professor James Blyth. This cloth-covered, 10m-high edifice was installed directly outside Blyth’s own cottage. The lights of which were successfully powered by the subsequently generated electricity, paving the way for the modern wind power technology that is now being evolved further with the use of duplex stainless steel.
Utilising wind power is of increasing environmental importance as it is renewable, plentiful and clean as an energy source. In addition, only small amounts of land are necessary for constructing wind farms and no greenhouse gases are emitted during operation. Recent statistics gathered by an EU analysis show that wind is an ‘inexpensive’ electricity source in comparison to fossil fuel plants and, as of June this year, 4% of the world’s total energy was generated using the wind power method.
When a wind turbine tower is of a height above 100m, each additional metre increases the average energy output of that turbine by 1%. This fact clearly means that taller towers are necessary to meet the world’s ever-growing need for power. Using duplex stainless steel to create tubes which are fixed together to make a hybrid tower, Finnish company Stalatube can now manufacture towers reaching to heights of up to 160m, pushing the envelope for energy production still further.
The towers, known as Stalawind towers, are much lighter than their predecessors, making transportation and installation much easier and more cost-effective. The durability and strength of duplex stainless steel ensure a long life for the tower, during which CO2 emissions will be extremely low. Less welding will also be required during installation.
Once again, stainless steel has shown its unmatched versatility as it continues to be a material of prime importance in changing and evolving technology, shaping the future and revolutionising the way we live and work.