Vita Inclinata Technologies, Inc. in Partnership with Mortenson Explores New Ways to “Harness the Wind” Through New Technology Applications
ita Industrial and M. A. Mortenson Company (Mortenson) conducted a case study to evaluate the potential value load navigation technology can bring to the wind turbine industry. This technology holds the promise of overcoming dangers and setbacks associated with wind turbine installations, maintenance, and repower projects.
The single largest concern on wind turbine installation projects is the effect of wind. The wind poses two interrelated issues: safety and efficiency. Despite existing tools and procedures to reduce the effect of wind, they can be ineffective, cumbersome, and drive additional cost to the project. The Vita Load Navigator (VLN) can play a vital role in wind turbine construction by empowering workers to direct the crane load outside of harms way, eliminating the risk of safety incidents.
Mortenson’s vast experience and expertise in wind turbine installation, coupled with their desire to continuously improve operations and yield safer, more cost-effective outcomes, made them a great partner for Vita. A small, innovative business based in Broomfield, CO, Vita developed the Navigator by applying their lifesaving, Aerospace motion control technology to improve operational efficiency while preventing injury and death on construction sites. The two companies came together with an idea that there is a better way to do business in an industry facing the pressures of rapid expansion.
Through a series of discussions to identify opportunities for the technology, the team mapped out a “crawl, walk, run” evaluation and tech maturation process that has moved from the conference room into the field. The goal is to identify and illustrate the value of precision placement and position hold in the wind turbine installation process, while steadily scaling the technology to meet the demands of the wind project and reach a commercialization stage. After a series of data exchanges, a feasibility review, and more discussion, the date was set to conduct the first hardware test, a proof-of-concept lift in the Denver, CO area.
Signaling the “graduation exercise” from the “crawl” phase, Vita determined the sizing of a small-scale proxy wind turbine blade (50’ long x 10,000 lbs) and attached the load to the 25 ton Navigator. The team then conducted a variety of crane movement and load positioning maneuvers to demonstrate the effectiveness of the precise position hold and orientation control capabilities of the Navigator, as well as the simplicity of the design. Based upon the proof-of-concept results, Mortenson invited Vita representatives to the Dakota Range Wind Project in Watertown, SD to observe actual operations and perform a light load performance evaluation of the Navigator.
Moving to the field in South Dakota initiated the “Walk” phase of test and evaluation. During this phase, the Navigator demonstrated control of flat, thin, lightweight loads (a 300 lb 12’x20’ nacelle top panel). Historically, this is a difficult lift because there is a high potential for wind updrafts to lift the load and create oscillating motion. The Navigator was able to orient the panel to its desired position and hold the panel stable while technicians bolted it in place. Although an atypical lift for a system with 25 ton capacity, it demonstrated to field operators that new technology could make their jobs easier, safer, and faster.
While initial lift results were promising, the effort highlighted the critical nature of establishing a partnership to enable new technology to penetrate demanding operating environments. Without Mortenson’s willingness to work with Vita and share their expertise, data, and guidance to identify and refine use cases, Vita would have been unable to rapidly gain insights crucial to take the next step.
Staying with the “crawl, walk, run” theme, future targets include a “walk graduation” demonstration heavy lift with hardware adapted to provide powerful thrust at scale to control nacelles and turbine blades. Once successful, “run” plans include a full-scale system providing precise control throughout an entire wind turbine installation.
About M.A. Mortenson Company
Mortenson is a U.S.-based, top-20 builder, developer, and engineering services provider serving the commercial, institutional, and energy sectors. Mortenson’s expanding portfolio of integrated services helps its customers move their strategies forward, ensuring their investments result in high-performing assets. The result is a turnkey partner, fully invested in the business success of its customers.
Founded in 1954, Mortenson has operations across the U.S. with offices in Chicago, Denver, Fargo, Iowa City, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Phoenix, Portland, San Antonio, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. For additional information, visit www.mortenson.com.