Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2011

Degree Name

MS (Master of Science)

Degree In

Civil and Environmental Engineering

First Advisor

Jasbir S. Arora


A renewed commitment in the United States and abroad to electricity from renewable resources, such as wind, along with the recent deployment of very large turbines that rise to new heights, makes obtaining the most efficient and safe designs of the structures that support them ever more important. Towards this goal, the present research seeks to understand how optimization concepts and Microsoft Excel's optimization capabilities can be used in the design of wind turbine towers and foundations. Additionally, this research expands on the work of previous researchers to study how considering the tower and foundation as an integral system, where tower support conditions are not perfectly rigid, affects the optimal design. Specifically, optimization problems are formulated and solved with and without taking into account the effect of deflections, resulting from the foundation's rotational and horizontal stiffness, on natural frequency calculations. The general methodology used to transcribe the design of wind turbine towers and foundations into an optimization problem includes: 1) collecting information on design requirements and parameter values 2) deciding how to analyze the structure 3) formulating the optimization problem 4) implementation using Microsoft Excel. Key assumptions include: 1) use of an equivalent lumped mass method for estimating natural frequency 2) International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) 61400-1 extreme loading condition controls design (i.e. fatigue loading condition is not considered) 3) extreme loads are obtained from manufacturer provided structural load document that satisfies loading cases outlined in IEC 61400-1 4) wind forces on the tower are calculated in accordance with IEC 61400-1 5) optimization variables are continuous. The sum of the tower material and fabrication cost and the total foundation cost is taken as the objective function. Important conclusions from this work include: 1) optimization concepts and Microsoft Excel's optimization capabilities can be used to obtain reasonable conceptual level designs and cost estimates 2) detailed designs and cost estimates could be achieved using a solver capable of handling discrete optimization problems 3) considering the tower and foundation as an integral system results in a more expensive, but safer, design 4) for the assumed parameter values, the constraint on the tower's natural frequency was found to control the tower design and the bearing capacity constraint was found to control the foundation design 5) relaxing or tightening the limit on the natural frequency will result in the greatest benefit or penalty, respectively, on the optimum solution.


Computer Aided Design, Excel Solver, Foundation Design, Steel Tower Design, Structural Optimization, Wind Turbine Tower and Foundation System Design


ix, 59 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 58-59).


Copyright 2011 John C. Nicholson