This study illustrates design optimization for multiple wind towers located at different villages in Alaska. The towers are supported by two different types of foundations: large mat or deep piles foundations. Initially, a reinforced concrete (RC) mat foundation was proposed. Where soil conditions required it, a pile foundation solution was devised utilizing a 30 in thick RC mat containing an embedded steel grillage of W18 beams and supported by 20–24 in grouted or un-grouted piles. For faster installation and lower construction cost, all-steel foundations were proposed for these remote Alaska sites. The new all-steel design was found to reduce the natural frequencies of the structural system due to softening the foundation. Thus, the tower–foundation system could potentially become near-resonant with the operational frequencies of the wind turbine. Consequently, the likelihood of structural damage or even the collapse is increased.
A detailed 3D finite-element model of the tower–foundation–pile system with RC foundation was created using SAP2000. Soil springs were included in the model based on soil properties obtained from the geotechnical investigation. The natural frequency from the model was verified against the tower manufacturer analytical and experimental values. When piles were used, numerous iterations were carried out to eliminate the need for the RC and optimize the design. An optimized design was achieved with enough separation between the natural and operational frequencies. The design successfully avoids damage to the structural system, while eliminating the need for any RC in most cases.