A new partnership forged between GE Renewable Energy, COBOD International and building materials company LafargeHolcim will seek to develop optimized 3D printed concrete bases for wind turbines to make them taller and more cost-effective. The turbines, which are expected to reach record heights of 200 meters, will be co-developed through a multi-year collaboration that seeks, overall, to increase renewable energy production while lowering the Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE).
The collaboration comes on the heels of an early 3D printed prototype for the wind turbine base, which was successfully manufactured in October 2019 using COBOD’s large-scale construction 3D printing technology. The prototype measures 10 meters in height and was produced in Copenhagen, where COBOD is based. Going forward, GE Renewable Energy, COBOD and LafargeHolcim will work towards building the full wind turbine prototype with a printed pedestal, as well as towards introducing the production-ready 3D printing tech and materials needed to scale up production.
One of the key aspects of the project is the height of the new wind turbines. Today, most industrial wind turbines measure up to about 100 meters in height. The goal with the 3D printed pedestal is to double that to increase the generation of renewable energy per turbine by capturing stronger winds. 3D printing is expected to make the project feasible, especially in terms of cost.
The 3D printed concrete bases will be designed to be built on-site using COBOD’s AM process and will thus be customizable in terms of size. This approach is expected to enable the production of much taller wind turbines, between 150 to 200 meters because turbine producers will not be hindered by transport limitations—today, the width of the base cannot exceed 4.5 meters for transportation reasons, which limits the height of the turbine. By increasing the height, the generation of power per turbine can also be increased substantially: for instance, a 5 MW turbine measuring 80 meters generates about 15.1 GWh a year. The same turbine measuring 160 meters would generate 20.2 GWh per year, an increase of 33%.
“Concrete 3D printing is a very promising technology for us, as its incredible design flexibility expands the realm of construction possibilities,” said Edelio Bermejo, Head of R&D for LafargeHolcim. “Being both a user and promoter of clean energy, we are delighted to be putting our material and design expertise to work in this groundbreaking project, enabling cost efficient construction of tall wind turbine towers and accelerating access to renewable energy.”
Henrik Lund-Nielsen, founder of COBOD International A/S added: “We are extremely proud to be working with world-class companies like GE Renewable Energy and LafargeHolcim. With our groundbreaking 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 CO 2 footprint from the production of energy.”
Each of the three partners will bring to the project its specific area of expertise: GE Renewable Energy will offer its knowledge of designing, manufacturing and commercializing wind turbines; COBOD will bring its technical expertise in robotics automation and 3D printing; and LafargeHolcim will develop the custom 3D printable concrete material for the applications.
“3D printing is in GE’s DNA and we believe that Large Format Additive Manufacturing will bring disruptive potential to the Wind Industry,” commented Matteo Bellucci, Advanced Manufacturing Technology Leader for GE Renewable Energy. “Concrete printing has advanced significantly over the last five years and we believe is getting closer to have real application in the industrial world. 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.”