GE Renewable Energy has inaugurated a new research and development (R&D) facility in the US where it will explore how to 3D print the concrete base of wind turbine towers.
The manufacturer aims to research how to produce the bottom portion of towers on-site at wind farms, lowering transportation costs and creating additional local employment opportunities.
The research is being conducted in a facility at Bergen, New York, and is supported by a grant from the US department of energy (DoE).
A team of 20 people will work on the technology. First applications in the field are anticipated within the next five years.
“Innovation will continue to be a key driver in accelerating the energy transition,” said GE’s chief technology officer Danielle Merfeld.
“It is particularly important to continuously improve the ways we design, manufacture, transport, and construct the large components of modern wind farms,” she added.
US DoE deputy assistant secretary for renewable power, Alejandro Moreno, said that growing wind capacity was essential to reaching the Biden administration’s ambitious carbon reduction goals.
“We’re proud to partner with GE Renewable Energy on this innovative 3D printing technology which has the potential to be a game changer in how we harness this resource,” he said. “With American-made taller towers assembled on site we can cut costs, overcome logistical hurdles, and accelerate progress toward our goals,” he added.
Enel Green Power is one of the customers interested in potential applications of the technology. The developer’s director of innovation, Luca Seletto, said the renewable energy industry needed to prioritise innovation and sustainability as it scales.
The 3D concrete printer was delivered by 3D printing company Cobod. Its founder and general manager Henrik Lund-Nielsen, said: “The printer we have delivered is second to none: not only can it print in excess of ten tonnes of real concrete per hour, but in addition, it is the first 3D concrete printer in the world with two X-axes on the printer.” Lund-Nielsen added that the printer would be best described as a multifunctional construction robot rather than a printer.
Head of global R&D, innovation and intellectual property at Swiss building materials specialist Holcim, Edelio Bermejo added that his company would propose the right mixture of ink to build more efficient wind turbines, directly on site as part of the project.