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Area wind turbine foundation system wins award

Submitted photo The first RUTE 30BX Foundation was installed at Palmers Creek Wind Farm in Granite Falls last November and supports a GE 2.5 megawatt turbine on a 295-foot tower hub height.

PORTLAND, Ore. — An Oregon cleantech company that developed a new concrete-saving, CO2-reducing foundation system for wind turbine towers has been awarded the 2019 Merit Award from the Post-Tensioning Institute, based on the first installation of the foundation technology in southwest Minnesota.

A video of the construction can be seen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xcSWqon0-xQ.

The industry-first modular wind turbine tower base, developed by RUTE Foundation Systems with early support from climate impact accelerator VertueLab, cuts the amount of concrete needed by 75 percent over the life cycle of a wind farm. Because concrete contains cement, a material that generates large amounts of CO2 during production, the RUTE system also reduces CO2 emissions.

“Using our precast, segmental foundation at a single 60-tower wind farm would keep about 65 million pounds of CO2 out of the atmosphere,” said Doug Krause, CEO of RUTE Foundations. “This CO2 reduction is realized through lower concrete usage, a much longer lifecycle of our precast components and the fact new wind farms can come on line a month earlier because our foundations don’t have to cure.”

Traditional poured-in-place foundations require concrete footings that are 60 feet in diameter, weigh almost 2 million pounds and use 40 truckloads of concrete, or approximately 400 cubic yards. Curing that amount of concrete takes weeks before towers can be installed, and the life of the structure is less than half that of the RUTE foundation, which can last 60 years.

The precast, modular components in the RUTE system are made in beam manufacturing plants and use post-tensioning technology (a method of strengthening concrete with high-strength steel strands common in bridge construction).

RUTE recognized the following area partner companies that were critical to receiving the award:

• Bob St. Aubin, Marshall, (precast yard operations)

• Buffalo Ridge Concrete, Marshall (high strength concrete)

• Fagen, Inc, Granite Falls (general contractor)

• Hisken Construction, Marshall (concrete finishing and formwork)

The RUTE technology is entering the marketplace just as the wind farm industry is upgrading from 1.5MW turbines to 3.5+MW turbines, which require taller towers. The RUTE system is stronger than standard concrete, so wind farms can upgrade to larger towers without additional costs.

“The PTI recognition is huge for us,” said Jeff Colwill, RUTE’s vice president of operations, who accepted the award yesterday at the annual Post-Tensioning Institute convention in Seattle. “Because RUTE can also manufacture the foundations locally, near the wind farms, our technology will also help create local jobs.”

The first RUTE 30BX Foundation was installed at Palmers Creek Wind Farm in Granite Falls last November and supports a GE 2.5 megawatt turbine on a 295-foot tower hub height. RUTE partnered on the project with a team of engineering and construction firms, including Structural Technologies/VSL, RUTE’s post-tensioning partner based in Maryland.

RUTE Foundations will be presenting its success and industry traction at WINDPOWER 2019, the annual conference of the American Wind Energy Association in Houston, Texas, on May 22.

Precast segmental foundations that use bridge technology is new to the wind industry, and RUTE’s patented technology allows wind farm owners to reuse the foundation for multiple turbine repowering events.

“This allows the asset owner to extend the life of the wind farm facility and lower the electricity cost to their customers,” said Krause. “In addition, the contractor gets a safer and faster field installation, and when the project has run its lifecycle, the landowner can have their land fully restored.”

VertueLab has invested $250,000 in RUTE, financing the engineering effort and providing a range of business support services.

“We couldn’t have done this without VertueLab’s support,” said Krause. “They were our key investor in the Unit One construction in Minnesota, and they’ve been advisers the whole way, connecting us to key players and adding much more value to the operation that the $250,000 they invested.”

VertueLab’s mission is helping cleantech startups speed promising climate solutions to market.

“As the race to reverse the climate crisis tightens, RUTE Foundations is a standout example of a cleantech startup with an innovative climate change solution that can scale and keep tons of CO2 out of the atmosphere,” said Ken Vaughn, director of impact investments at VertueLab. “We’re proud to be playing a role in accelerating this technology to the marketplace.”

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