The tower represents a significant portion of the materials and cost of the small wind turbine system. Optimization techniques typically maximize the tower loading capability while reducing material use and cost. Still, tower design focuses mainly on structural integrity and durability. Moreover, tower motion that intensifies drivetrain and structural loads is only rarely considered. The environmental impact of the wind turbine must also be considered since wind energy promotes sustainability. Trade-offs between the structural performance, cost, and environmental impact are examined to guide the designer toward a sustainable alternative. Ultimately, an optimal design technique can be implemented and used to automate tower design. In this study, nine tower designs with different materials and geometries are analyzed using finite element analysis (FEA). The optimal tower design is selected using a multilevel-decision-making procedure. The analysis suggests that steel towers of minimal wall thickness are preferred. This study is a continuation of the previous work that optimized energy production and component life of small wind systems (Hall et al., 2015, “An Integrated Control and Design Framework for Optimizing Energy Capture and Component Life for a Wind Turbine Variable Ratio Gearbox,” ASME J. Sol. Energy Eng., 137(2), p. 021022). The long-term goal is to develop a tool that performs optimization and automated design of small wind systems. In our future work, the tower and drivetrain designs will be merged and studied using higher fidelity models.

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