Video: GE plans 200-metre '3D-printed on-site' towers

GE Renewable Energy has teamed with a robotics firm and a buildings materials manufacturer to co-develop wind turbines with 3D-printed concrete towers that could reach hub heights of up to 200 metres.

GE, Cobod and LafargeHolcim produced a first prototype - a 10-metre high tower pedestal - last year
GE, Cobod and LafargeHolcim produced a first prototype - a 10-metre high tower pedestal - last year

The increased height of towers could help turbines capture more wind and produce more electricity, while the technology itself could help reduce costs and transportation difficulties, GE Renewable Energy suggested.

It is working with Danish robotics and automation company Cobod and Swiss buildings materials specialist LafargeHolcim on the multi-year project.

The partners aim to produce a wind turbine prototype with a printed pedestal and create a production-ready printer and concrete materials to help scale up production.

Last October, they used 3D printing to produce the first prototype - a 10-metre high tower pedestal - in Copenhagen (see video below).

They hope 3D printing can help increase turbine production, while lowering the levelised cost of electricity (LCOE) and construction costs.

Their 200-metre target for a 3D-printed tower would exceed the 161-metre maximum hub height offered for GE’s 5MW Cypress onshore platform. It would also be greater than the 170-metre hub height of Siemens Gamesa’s 5.X platform - currently the tallest onshore tower.

GE Renewable Energy’s chief technology officer Danielle Merfeld told Windpower Monthly that 3D printing - also known as additive manufacturing - allows manufacturers to create prototypes quickly and cheaply. It is already being used in construction to create incredibly precise, single-piece components, she explained.

Matteo Bellucci, GE Renewable Energy’s technology leader for advanced manufacturing, said: “Concrete printing has advanced significantly over the last five years and we believe it is getting closer to having 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.”

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