GE Renewable Energy has inaugurated a new research and development (R&D) facility in the United States where it will explore how to 3D print concrete-based wind turbine towers.
The manufacturer aims to research how to produce the lower part of the towers on site at wind farms, reducing transport costs and creating additional local employment opportunities.
The research is being conducted at a facility in 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. The first field applications are planned within the next five years.
“Innovation will continue to be a key driver to accelerate the energy transition,” said Danielle Merfeld, GE’s chief technology officer.
“It is particularly important to continuously improve the way we design, manufacture, transport and construct the large components of modern wind farms,” she added.
GE first shared plans for on-site 3D printing of tower bases in June 2020. The company is also exploring the possibility of 3D printing offshore wind turbine nacelles.
US DoE Deputy Assistant Secretary for Renewable Energy Alejandro Moreno said increasing wind capacity was key to meeting the Biden administration’s ambitious carbon reduction targets.
“We are 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 taller American-made towers assembled on site, we can reduce costs, overcome logistical hurdles and accelerate progress toward our goals,” he added.
Enel Green Power is one of the customers interested in the potential applications of the technology. The developer’s chief innovation officer, Luca Seletto, said the renewable energy industry must prioritize innovation and sustainability as it evolves.
The concrete 3D printer was delivered by the 3D printing company Cobod. Its founder and Managing Director, Henrik Lund-Nielsen, said: “The printer we delivered is second to none: not only can it print over ten tons of real concrete per hour, but it is also the first concrete 3D 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.
Global head of R&D, innovation and intellectual property at Swiss building materials specialist Holcim, Edelio Bermejo added that his company would provide the right mix of ink to build more efficient wind turbines, directly on site in the framework of the project.