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Germany

Germany

One tower for two jobs

The concept of a new kind of electricity pylon to carry not only high voltage transmission lines but also wind turbines has been reported negatively and with some confusion in the German press. But Rolf Werner of Pfleiderer, Germany's leading concrete mast manufacturer, says the idea is perfectly feasible.

According to Werner, the 50 metre tall concrete tower built by Pfleiderer for the Enercon 500 kW wind turbine could, in addition, carry 110 kV transmission lines. The tower height would have to be increased to 50.5 metres and it would weigh 120 tonnes. The 110 kV lines would hang at a height of 26 metres, some five metres below the lowest point reached by the rotating turbine rotor blades. Werner adds that the same 50 metre tower could also carry 380 kV double transmission lines as an aesthetic alternative to the standard pylons used today.

The concrete towers for grid lines would cost no more than traditional lattice pylons, assures Pfleiderer. Werner suspects that the reluctance shown by the utilities so far to even try mounting a wind turbine and transmission lines on the same tower is linked to fears that once it becomes clear power lines can be carried by concrete masts, the standard ugly pylons may no longer be allowed for new installations. This would require utilities to seek outside contractors for pylon construction -- an areas of business which they have had full control of until now. Werner argues that this reluctance is stalling an innovation which would greatly benefit wind energy. He admits, though, that few companies, aside from Pfleiderer, are capable of building concrete towers.

Gert Nimz from utility Schleswag in the state of Shchleswig-Holstein says use of concrete towers to carry electric cables all boils down to the question of cost. Concrete towers would need less maintenance but are more expensive to manufacture and install than steel pylons, which can be transported in handy sections as small as five metre lengths, he points out.

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