GE, already dominant in the U.S. wind turbine market, is getting into the wind tower business, with a recent announcement that it would buy Wind Tower Systems (Wind Tower).
Wind Tower is a Park City, Utah, company that designs towers for mounting utility scale wind turbines. While most existing utility-scale wind turbine towers stand at 65-70 meters, the company’s modular tower technology and lift system enable taller towers (100 meters high).
As this Greentech Media piece notes, taller towers permit longer turbine blades, which means more power per turbine.
Wind Tower’s product offerings include the Space Frame Tower and the Hi-Jack System for assembly and disassembly. The company owns at least one U.S. Patent and several U.S. patent applications relating to its tower structure and lift system technology.
U.S. Patent Application Publication No. 2010/0226785 (’785 Application) is entitled “Structural tower” and is directed to a wind tower assembly that includes composite damping members or struts to dampen wind-induced vibrations in the tower structure. Embodiments of damping members contemplated by the ’785 Application include a viscous or hydraulic damper and a spring element.
The Hi-Jack System is protected U.S. Patent No. 7,877,934 (’934 Patent), which issued last month. Entitled “Lifting system and apparatus for constructing wind turbine towers,” the ’934 Patent is directed to apparatus and methods for erecting a wind tower and turbine assembly.
The lifting apparatus (320) includes a pair of hydraulic rams (370) connected to telescoping members (375) of each of first and second lifting trusses (330, 331) via each hydraulic ram’s cylinder unit (371). When the hydraulic rams (370) are retracted, the transverse beam (345) is positioned fore of the top bay assembly (317).
According to the ’934 Patent this position facilitates hoisting of a turbine, after which the hydraulic rams (370) are extended, causing the lifting apparatus (320) to pivot. This raises the transverse beam (345) above the top bay assembly (317) to a position where the turbine can be lowered and secured to the top bay assembly.
U.S. Patent Application Publication No. 2010/0236161 (’161 Application) focuses on the hoisting part of the process. The ’161 Application is entitled “Lifting system and apparatus for constructing and enclosing wind turbine towers” and is directed to Wind Tower’s gin pole lifting component.
According to the ’161 Application, a ginpole (601) can be used together with the lift apparatus (660) to lift or control the lift of the turbine or blade assembly (675) and can be used raise or lower the lifting apparatus (660) itself.
With GE scooping up Wind Tower’s IP relating to wind turbine assembly technology, Philip Totaro’s wind patent trendspotting piece predicting the increased importance of “‘on-site’ assembly procedures” looks very prescient.
Eric Lane is a patent attorney at Luce, Forward, Hamilton & Scripps in San Diego and the author of Green Patent Blog. Mr. Lane can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.