Itasca Consulting Group in Partnership with Mortenson Win 2021 Tekne Award
Award won for Innovation in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning advances safety and efficiency in wind energy construction
Moving large cranes

Itasca Consulting Group and Mortenson are proud to announce that their work applying machine learning to advance safety and efficiency in wind energy construction earned a 2021 Tekne Award (Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning category) from the Minnesota Technology Association. The award recognizes organizations leveraging software that simulates human intelligence to enable innovation and business goals, including greater productivity, optimized processes, or enhanced ability to manage risk and compliance.

Every three hours, a new wind turbine is installed in the United States. Massive construction cranes must travel between turbine sites, requiring an understanding of the ground along the route to avoid sinking or toppling.

Mortenson approached Itasca with a vision of a system to predict crane stability quickly and accurately. Itasca met this challenge, and in April 2021, Mortenson began using the Itasca Bearing Capacity Prediction Tool to give their field operators instant feedback on the bearing capacity of the soil.

This web-based tool rapidly predicts ground bearing capacity calculations via software automation and an artificial-neural-network and scaling techniques based on FLAC3D computer simulations. In a matter of minutes, Mortenson engineers have accurate assessments of soil conditions and crane stability for a wide range of crane sizes. Previously, crane stability calculations required weeks, risking the need to remobilize a test rig for additional testing, which could add tens of thousands of dollars in project cost as well as schedule delays.

Mortenson can now merge surface test data with previous cone penetrometer test (CPT) field data to understand how changes in surface conditions have impacted the ultimate bearing capacity of the soil. This analysis can be done a few days ahead of a crane move instead of weeks or months.

Itasca and Mortenson’s prediction work is moving the wind energy construction industry closer to having a real-time understanding of ground conditions and will help the industry safely and efficiently move cranes.

This approach has been reviewed by Barr Engineering, a partner engineering consulting firm, and is now routinely used to provide an early indication of crane walk viability. Itasca continues to develop related follow-on technology for crane walk assessments.

About Itasca Consulting Group

Founded in 1981, Itasca is a global, employee-owned, engineering consulting and software firm, focusing on geomechanical and hydrogeological projects. Our consultants solve complex problems in the fields of mining, civil, environmental, energy, and materials engineering. Itasca combines practical engineering and field experience with expert knowledge of advanced numerical simulation and analysis. Itasca's software (3DEC, FLAC, FLAC3D, Griddle, MINEDW, PFC, UDEC, and XSite) are highly respected and widely used.