The wicket gates shown here prior to transport were installed on the Peoria Lock & Dam on the Illinois river in 2015. The 10 x 12-foot panels feature a vinyl ester resin and more than 30 layers of fiberglass fabric, including 0/90 degree and +45 degree fabrics. Photo credit: Composite Advantage

Perform a Cost Comparison

The cost comparison should be made among different design options. A life cycle cost analysis should be used when designing with composites as an alternative to conventional materials because FRP offers longer service life and lower maintenance costs, but at a higher initial cost in some scenarios and at a competitive price in other cases, such as wicket gates.

These five considerations only begin to address the budding hydraulic structures market. Educating owners and designers about composites – including specification developments and training fabricators of composite systems – are real challenges facing the market. Even so, the future is promising, provided that high-quality workmanship and installation procedures are ensured. Based on limited in-service data, it is safe to conclude that GFRP systems for hydraulic structures are resulting in longer service life, lower initial costs (in some cases) and reduced life-cycle costs with enhanced structural performance.