20 years until decommissioning or built to last lifetimes?

Europe has a 2000 year history of building survivable constructions, Roman aqueducts and roads, castles, monasteries, channels, railroads, highways, skyscrapers, the Eiffel tower, the Atomium, and more recently the Dutch Deltaworks and the Chunnel. All these constructions were built to last lifetimes, some intentionally, other less so.

And if we believe NASA, in a not so near future, we will even be able to build the famous space elevator Arthur C. Clarke imagined.

But what about current windmills and wind farms, what is their estimated lifecycle?

The world´s first offshore turbine passed into history after faithfully providing its services for our benefit for a bit longer than 20 years. What is striking is the short life of this construction, 20 years! It does not seem very long in relation to the investment made. We know that technology advances at an astonishing speed, and for a PC or phone model 20 years is an unimaginable long life. However, for a system with such a high cost and serious implications, 20 years can be considered too short a duration. I believe we all expect at least several lifetimes or more, like the artefacts mentioned earlier.

In this context, is there anything that can be done so that if not all, at least a considerable part of the initial investment survives the test of time? Maintenance activities are obviously needed, but not a complete dismantling of the whole wind farm. That is if we design it smartly!

The Wind Energy System, Wind-Dam, proposes a modular construction model, making it possible to replace parts, and not the whole construction. The Wind Dam system itself proposes an optimised, maybe smaller turbine, attached on a mesh of very resistant cables hung between very high towers. Most probably in a few years’ time these newly designed turbines will be replaced by more powerful ones, and the cables possibly replaced by nanotube based technologies. However, our proposed modular approach allows for keeping up with the technological advances at a comparably very low cost. The aim of this proposal is to build a highly resistant structure, not only being able to bear the weight of the turbines, but also for surviving the strains of nature for up to 200 years, or even for considerably longer. The turbines, if it were necessary, can be replaced by ones that have a higher performance, without having to dismantle the whole structure. Also, the superstructure and mesh can be replaced by lighter, stronger and more durable versions as the (nano)technologies become available.

The implemented Wind-Dam will not only save decommissioning costs, such as having to destroy the undersea foundations, but also the related environmental cost.

This is what we call sustainable investment and sustainable development.

Adrian Rapas, Inventor

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