With the steadily increasing share of wind power in the world’s total energy consumption, windmill fabrication is maturing as an industrial sector. Marcel Stemvers, European Marketing Manager of ESAB Nederland B.V, discusses the challenges that producers of wind turbine towers face today and the solutions that are being developed to address them.
Having originated within industries such as offshore and pressure vessel fabrication, many fabricators have converted to fully-fledged producers of windmills, often operating internationally. Today, the windmill industry exists in an extremely competitive environment where fabricators are constantly forced to reconsider their production facilities in order to remain competitive. In welding – one of the most important elements of fabrication – increased productivity is a top priority, along with meeting increased weld quality requirements. ESAB is a leading supplier of welding and cutting solutions that closely follows the progress of the windmill industry, working with fabricators to find solutions for welding demands.
Wind tower production is a typical welding intensive industry segment. The products are voluminous, identical and require a high structural integrity. The production volume needs to pass pre-defined production steps and a limited number of production stations are available. Commonly, each next (welding) step depends on the tolerances and quality delivered from the previous station. Additionally, component size, structural requirements and production volumes increase continuously, putting demands on manufacturing flexibility. The industry is also expanding geographically, requiring new production capacity to be installed close to new markets, as transporting wind towers over long distances is not economically, or practically, viable.