Hydraulic mast erector could cut overall wind turbine costs

A Yorkshire farmer-engineer’s ingenious, hydraulically-powered mast erector could cut the overall cost of putting up a wind turbine.

At the moment, if you want to erect a sizeable wind turbine, you generally have to put up a wind data mast first. This can be anything from 30m to 50m high, with anemometers on top to measure wind speeds at the height from the ground your turbine will operate at.

It’s not optional- both the manufacturer of the turbine and the bank providing the finance will almost certainly insist on it.

It’s not cheap either. Putting up the mast (and taking it down) typically costs more than £8000 and the rental of the mast can be as much £500 a month over a typical testing period of six months – a total of £11,000. And the process of putting it up involves a team of people slotting a series of ever-longer tubes together and then anchoring it with very long guy ropes.

All this sounded expensive and old-fashioned to Aldbrough, East Yorkshire farmer and engineer Chris Allanson. He was planning to put up a wind turbine but reckoned he could build something that could do the task more simply, safely and cheaply.

“It was taking three to four people a whole day to put up a wind data mast and if the wind got over 6 metres a second they had to stop,” he says. “And the cost can amount to 10% of the total expense of putting up a 150kW turbine.”

FastMast system

• 30m/40m/50m masts
• £5000 to put up/take down
• £200/month rental
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“Our FastMast system means it takes only three hours to erect and the cost is £5000 to put up and take down and £200 a month rental. So the total cost for six months is £6200. And we can cope with a wind speed of 13 metres a sec”

By May this year Mr Allanson had completed the design, got it certified and built the first one. His mast erection system is very simple. A special trailer carrying the mast is driven to the site. The mast is then laid out behind the trailer, the sections bolted together and the anemometers fitted.

A huge ram then provides the hydraulic muscle for the whole mast to be pulled slowly upright. Since it’s still attached to the back of the trailer, says Mr Allanson, it is stable enough to stand on its own until the guy ropes are attached.

The actual lifting process takes just 2.5 minutes. Taking it down is the reverse of putting it up, with the hydraulic ram able to lower it gently to avoid damaging the sensitive anemometers.

Mr Allanson says he has already built and sold two mast systems and has about 12 orders in the pipeline. He also offers a mast rental service across England, Wales and Scotland.