GE hopes to 3D print concrete components for wind turbines

A Haliade X wind turbine photographed on March 2, 2022 in the Netherlands. The Haliade-X is part of a new generation of giant turbines to be installed in the coming years.

Peter Bur | Bloomberg | Getty Images

A new research facility hoping to 3D print the concrete bases of giant wind turbine towers has been launched, with project stakeholders hoping this will help reduce costs for the industry as turbines get bigger.

In an announcement last week, GE Renewable Energy said the research “would enable GE to 3D print the bottom section of wind turbines on-site at wind farms.” It would also reduce transportation costs, it said.

Danielle Merfeld, chief technology officer at GE Renewable Energy, said in a statement that it is “particularly important to continuously improve the way we design, manufacture, transport and build the large components of modern wind farms.”

The facility in Bergen, New York, is described as “the heart” of a collaboration with cement giant Holcim and Cobod, a company specializing in 3D printing. The multi-year partnership was announced in 2020.

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According to GE, the printer in Bergen is “the size of a three-story building” and can print tower sections up to 20 meters high. Henrik Lund-Nielsen, Cobod’s founder and CEO, said the printer is “the largest of its kind in the world” and can “print more than 10 tons of real concrete per hour”.

A grant from the US Department of Energy has helped support research at the site, where a 20-strong team is optimizing the technology. “First applications in the field” are expected to occur sometime in the next five years, GE says.

The work being done in upstate New York is just one example of how wind energy companies are exploring new ways to design turbines.

Companies like the Swedish company Modvion, for example, focus on the development of laminated wood towers for wind turbines. In April 2020, the company said it had installed a 30-meter tower on an island near Gothenburg.

Back in the US, the printer’s substantial dimensions in Bergen also reflect a growing interest – and need – in technology that will enable companies to develop giant wind turbines.

In recent years, some big players in the industry have announced details for large turbines.

For example, GE Renewable Energy’s Haliade-X turbine will have a height of up to 260 meters (853 feet), a rotor diameter of 220 meters and blades 107 meters long. In China, MingYang Smart Energy released details of a 264-meter-tall design in August 2021 that will use 118-meter blades.

Elsewhere, Danish company Vestas is working on a 15-megawatt turbine with a 236-meter rotor diameter and 115.5-meter blades, while Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy is developing a turbine with 108-meter blades and 222-meter rotor diameter . GE hopes to 3D print concrete components for wind turbines

Chrissy Callahan

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