- The tripartite partnership will help build up to 200-metre prototype using a concrete 3D printed base to generate more power
GE Renewable Energy, the renewable energy division of General Electric, recently forged partnership with COBOD International, the Danish manufacturer of Modular Construction 3D Printers, and LafargeHolcim, the Swiss manufacturer of building materials, to co-build 200 meters tall wind turbine towers supported by concrete 3D printed bases. The resulting wind turbine can generate more than 33% extra power compared to regular wind turbines. The multi-year collaboration aims to develop the towers and process for making them.
The three partners will leverage each other’s capabilities to produce a wind turbine prototype with a concrete 3D printed pedestal, a production ready printer and materials to scale up production.
The record-breaking height of the towers will help in capturing the stronger winds high up leading to an increased amount of power being generated. This will lower the levelised cost of energy (LCoE).
According to a statement from GE Renewable Energy, “Printing a variable height base directly on-site with 3D-printed concrete technology will enable the construction of towers up to 150-200 metres tall. Typically, a 5MW turbine at 80 metres generates 15.1 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of energy annually. In comparison, the same turbine at 160 metres would generate 20.2GWh, or more than 33% extra power.”
The first prototype, a 10-metre high tower pedestal, was successfully printed in October 2019 in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Concrete 3D Printing for Tower Base
All the three partners are leading players in their own fields and have their own set of skills and expertise. The idea behind the collaboration is to leverage their individual expertise to create a powerful solution for generating more renewable energy. Through the partnership:
- GE Renewable Energy will provide expertise related to the design, manufacture and commercialisation of wind turbines.
- COBOD will focus on the robotics automation and 3D printing.
- LafargeHolcim will design the concrete material, its processing and application.
Speaking on the partnership, LafargeHolcim R&D head Edelio Bermejo said, “Concrete 3D printing is a very promising technology for us, as its incredible design flexibility expands the realm of construction possibilities. Being both a user and promoter of clean energy, we are delighted to be putting our material and design expertise to work in this ground-breaking project, enabling cost efficient construction of tall wind turbine towers and accelerating access to renewable energy.”
Commenting about the project, COBOD founder Henrik Lund-Nielsen added, “We are extremely proud to be working with world-class companies like GE Renewable Energy and LafargeHolcim. With our ground-breaking 3D printing technology combined with the competence and resources of our partners, we are convinced that this disruptive move within the wind turbines industry will help drive lower costs and faster execution times, to benefit customers and lower the CO2 footprint from the production of energy.”
GE Renewable Energy advanced manufacturing technology leader Matteo Bellucci said, “3D printing is in GE’s DNA and we believe that large format additive manufacturing will bring disruptive potential to the wind industry. Concrete printing has advanced significantly over the last five years and we believe is getting closer to have real application in the industrial world.”
Bellucci added, “We are committed to taking full advantage of this technology both from the design flexibility it allows as well as for the logistic simplification it enables on such massive components.”
Wind turbine towers have typically been limited to a height of under 100 metres, as the width of the base cannot exceed the 4.5 metre diameter that can be transported by road, without additional costs but with the concrete 3D printed bases, the limit will easily be crossed to generate additional power.
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